Sunday, June 24, 2018

Who Is to Say

Who is to say the chrysalis dreaming
Is inferior to the summer Luna moth,
And who is to say
The new moon in eclipse has died, 
If the full moon is so beautiful and bright?
Who is to say the moneyed prisoner of greed
Is lacking something only felt in carnival?
And who is to say the prayerful seeker after God
Sees more of Him than the junkie in a fevered dream?
Who is to say if the free are prisoners, 
Or if the poor are free?
Who is to say but God,
Who only knows the everything of things. 
Who is to say but God,
Whom of us have dreamt the dream of life?

John Sevcik

Friday, June 15, 2018

We who have gone in search of beauty

We who have gone in search of beauty
For ourselves, or others, on the dole
Of what the muse abundantly provides
With little succor, only with demands
For more canvas, brushes, paint,
Or a mine of stones to chisel,
Rents to pay and transport to and from
The hovel you would travel to in Maine,
Or all that you must eat and feast your eyes
On books of reproductions from the past
Aligned with nothing they have taught in schools
Other than “don’t now do what was done before.”
How have you your own time measured out
To mete out beauty from a stunted time?
Just as you your measure take, it moves. 
Beauty alone is not its likeness now. 
It wrestled once already for its meaning
Immortalized for others in mute form, 
Illusioned like a perfect memory and bliss. 
Today there is no longer need of this. 
What you cannot afford to make your art,
They have in great abundance; who might part
With millions, climb far mountains, take
A class in art, and quit before you make
Of them, the slave this art has made of you. 
Brother, can you spare a dime of inspiration?
We have gone after you and found
The self-same artist on a mountaintop
And asked him what he’s doing, what he’s painting,
When it’s clear and we can see ourselves. 
We have our iPhone camera at the ready 
And only need a block of time to edit
Everything we didn’t look at while snapping up
The memories of a lifetime we will share
On Facebook. Canvas! Brushes! Stone?
We didn’t come this way to fall behind
Technology and all it’s given us to do:
Moon at every spectacle staged for show
From royal weddings to our landings
On the moon. Who would wait for Turner’s
Take on things; we have news and networks 
For such things. And all the addled paint
That Church could scumble, isn’t needed
As we have no interest in the jungle,
Nor of global warming, nor Impressionism
Gloating over light and color: we’ve got 
Money on the next big thing — a trip
To Mars! Please consider what the pottery
Says of us: a Campbell’s soup can
And a plastic vase of pop. 
The oceans gather it in eddies 
Large as Wales, and as you paint
The movies move about, narrating everything
Your ancient painters couldn’t dream about. 
So as to beauty, formal and relaxed,
You have no special dalliance with the past,
But up against the great improvements of your age 
You need to sink your sculptures into glass
Or turn your Mona Lisa into holograms. 
Bifurcate the modern from the now
And give us future art so early it is out. 
Make it hard to contemplate, a gunshot
Or an artist crucified to a bug (VW),
Or Jeff Koons’ balloon sculptures made of chrome. 
At least they still remember classic chrome!
And so to beauty we are now divorced
As we cannot marry or enforce
The rules of old to now, or to the future;
Everything’s reduced to price and profit. 
Give us new, the brand, the trademark scan,
The only one of these, the chit for wealth
Without which there’s no beauty in the bank,
No pampered yacht cruise to Capri,
Nor fashions you can wear and fling
As bundles of your waste to render shock
In others not so greedy for a frock. 
Polish these, your stones of comprehension
And mock the office, if not the sheer presumption
Of what it means to make a work of art. 
It isn’t going to be what they call art,
But something so well made you cannot do without. 
Your age is in your phone, your tv view,
Your market bringing you the bottom price
And capital distributing its gains
Unevenly but thickly over all. 
What poverty? What golden age of old?
You’re in the middle of the latter days. 
Nothing can impose itself on you,
Least beauty that might make you sad
You aren’t as lovely as Sargent’s Madame X. 
Bring on the pomp and ceremony of your life,
Forget the past, it wasn’t all that ripe. 
Effulgence wraps its languid arms about
And drags to drowning all your sorrows out. 
A problem? Take a pill, or rather
Wire yourself to this transductor
And smile it out. Beauty is only
Beauty talked about. Fame is what you need,
So get a media consultant and arouse
The sleeping giant of our networked
Consciousness. Sell when thus established
To your sponsors; everything’s a concept,
So are you. And so I bring down curtains
(What are those?) on the past
And record the speed of change at last. 
You who think that art will wait it out
Are parked at the rocket port
Waiting for a pack of mules. 
Surrender to your video display;
Even that’s too old, your DVD, no!
Your digital display! Curses, foiled again. 
The old hat, hatless, will not cure
Baldness, at least of that we’re sure. 

John Sevcik


  1. In this poem that questions old forms of art as irrelevant now, the poet slips in and out of an old-fashioned meter and rhyme scheme, as well as affecting a need to satisfy a British audience. Why would this be an effective strategy? Why not?
  2. Is the poet’s mockery out of place? Should there be a micro-aggression warning before the poem, or in the margin every time it occurs?
  3. Are your feelings hurt by this attempt at poetry? Would you read this poem a second time for meaning, or rather write a poem of your own in response?
  4. Should this even be included in a course on poetry or art? What are your feelings about how the teacher presented this material, and should he be granted tenure, or simply let go to teach in an art center somewhere else?
  5. The invisible administrators who generally have less qualifications than  they can confer on you would like a raise. Would this course material justify, in your opinion, a raise, or firings across the board?  
  6. Please submit your answers in the envelope on the side desk, return your pencils, and have one of your (micro-aggression warning:) “class-mates” return the surveys to the marketing representative at the front desk?

Friday, May 11, 2018

The starry night

Turn on the lights
And we don't see the stars!
So bright is our home. 
But that makes us forget
When we fell in love;
We were rapturous as the stars.  
And that was before
We needed reassurance of our strength:
Four corners staking out our yard
And a bright electric light
To frighten new lovers away. 
No. Turn out the lights,
And let God light our way
From every point of view
With every intensity of flickering pulse. 

John Sevcik

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Illustrated Man

From Manhood Lessons of My Youth

It was a magazine book about astronomy
For earnest amateurs — a black sky
Constellation map you could cut out,
Glue to a round cardboard 
And affix an oblate window with a sprocket pin
And turn to any sky at any time of year, 
At any time of night,
Or even in the day you'd see
What wasn't visible because the sun's
Blanketing sheet of day-sky blots out
All rivals but the moon and clouds. 
It was in there how to build a telescope,
How to grind the mirror out of a round 
Pyrex blank, against another round
Green plate-glass beveled blank
Up through the carborundum numbers
Ending at the finest emory dust;
Then on to pouring a pitch lap
And polishing with jeweler's rouge
Till it became a spherical pond of clear glass
That still needed deepening with rouge
To bend into a parabolic form —
And this was called figuring. 
That's all I thought about, because
A grown man was illustrated,
Sleeves rolled up, polishing and figuring
His telescope to be. 
Eventually I did the same as he,
Though only in 8th and 9th grades. 
I didn't realize how much the illustrated man
Was guiding me to manhood and quiet work,
Like my pal Joey's dad two houses away 
Who never spoke, but sometimes
Coming home from work would shoot
A basketball in his driveway
In a grace of repetition at the hoop. 
Men's work, I found, could be
But not manhood. Not just yet. 
Manhood was the giant whose role I played. 
My mirror in its frosty curvature
Celebrated graduation as a hazy past;
A new school, a new beginning —
The ladder up to manhood extended,
And then, when I attained first light
The summer after freshman year
My wonder at the moon's bombarded texture,
And the rings of Saturn, or the nebula of Orion hunted down,
Or M 11 and the myriad Milky Way 
Stunned me into childhood for life. 
The illustrated man had grown younger
Until we met — the amateurs of science,
Forever in the transport of those stars. 

John Sevcik

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fire and Fury

It always kind of bothered me
Wernher Von Braun, father of rocketry,
Being the brainiac above politics
Never mind he terrorized London by the Blitz
The civics lesson of that is what?
"Over the moon, Alice!" with an uppercut.
They don't come off well, the great Americans,
In a race with the equalizing Russians;
Their Red rockets glared at the Nazis
Across the steppes of Russia's
Twenty million dead defenders.
Why would America make buddies
With a guy who used to get budgets
Approved by the head nazi?
I can't even write that one's name.
My father, before he was my father,
Was with the Londoners on the receiving end
Of V-2's and buzz bombs
Manufactured in mountain slave camps
By Jewish inmates working for,
You guessed it, our father of the moon tour.
Wouldn't you know it, science has an exception
For brains, no matter how good at deception.
And if they don't fit your policy,
Declare their science idiocy.
Who do these climate scientists think they are
Being better than politics, better by far,
Scolding big business, lobbyists
Congressional nationalists
And all the palaver of denialists.
Haven't they heard of science's
Gift to peace? I'm only facetious
When I praise these geniuses,
Who work for anyone, be he Nixon,
Trump, or Kim Jong Un.
Can they be of any more help?
Can they save us from ourselves?
I'll leave you with only one irony
To mull and defend. It is tiny
In the scheme of millions dead.
When our troubling hero Wernher
Was researching the rocket motor
That didn't yet exist, he thought a difficulty
Would be making the pumps and hoses
To feed liquid fuel to the fires of thrust
In the combustion holocaust centers.
Voila, those hoses and pumps could be censored
From their duties on fire engine tenders.
Yes, in this case, plowshares were beaten into swords
Without anyone needing a beating.
The pump maker rolled in his grave
With a sigh as he watched the rocket
Climb the sky for its munitions run.
Somewhere a neighborhood would stun
Itself awake to fight fire with water and life.
Put that in your smoke and pipe it
To wherever you need it most.
Genius isn't moral; au contraire,
And we know how that went there.
Curse your firemen's genius
For the fire of modern war.
It doesn't matter everything we do
Turns against everything we do.
Divided and conquered by madmen,
Our little science warnings starve
For a PR and a lobberist who'll carve
The world's people into sides
Then sides against middle they'll turn us,
Then side against side combust.
Nothing but money comes out of it.
Nothing but death is the cause.

John Sevcik

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Pardoner's Tale Prologue

Though elsewhere I've connived to tell you greed is good
And so exemplary of even Robin Hood
Who stole from those who had (where else?)
To bring himself repute, as well as cash (with hell's
Diablos holding down the ducats);
and then
He made his further millions when
The movie rights were sold!
Like Robin Hood, I scold
A Twitter populace of millions goaded
By anything I can rile them up with
Into voting booths to spill their guts out
Hating everything that earns my out-pout.
Bah! I don't release my taxes! Why?
It's much more classy when you're getting high
On other people's money not to brag
And let them know your wife shows theirs a hag!
Damn hot! I'm old as Methuselah,
Yet she slaps my hand on tv as usual!
Hot! Damn hot! And there's the rub,
When I decided to retreat to my club
Where everyone's charged double
Now that I'm the President of trouble!
If you're in, you've got my in-pout going;
I'll pardon you if any crime you're doing,
Just pay up, line up, lean over for your spanking;
I haven't had this much fun since pranking
(Oh, your children call it planking;
But I've heard in Latin class of Franking!).
The rest is all forgotten, because I wouldn't
Join a frat or study or gain entrance
Without some scurvy manipulative trance
Performed with money to the buggy eyes
Of the administrating savants of ice
In their veins. Pardoned! Pardoned!
It's a Christian thing, and great, and gardened
To emolumate me in veneers of class
While what I really craved was tits and ass!
Pardoned! I've pardoned me already!
So whatever I say is virtuous and steady!
So now I come to tell my tale that demonstrates
Just how great the great past was in all its straits.
Straitjackets for the press; they'll sit in front!
And I'll pardon none of them, but stunt
Their un-pardoning with quotes and tweets
To make the meaning of my tale so sweet
That even they'll adjust their thinking caps
And learn the earth has moved beyond their crap!
Enlightenment gives way to Entertainment;
Just read the National Enquirer next to the tic-tac mints
And memorize what the voters want! They want greed
And rich people in trouble with speed
And pardoning's the thing they do in line;
They weep for me, not your fucking by-line!
A pardoner's the one who makes you pardon
By being as bad, and badder than your hard-on!
And so my tale will wag about and score
On this theme so your press can learn their lore
Much better than "tsk tsk, what a prig!"
I'm President, you're nothing! Here I step into a Scottish jig
And shower money on myself from Putin's pocket;
Alas, he's such a fun guy, and those rockets!
Mama Mia, are the ratings growing?
Yes they are, and its because I'm snoring!
He's snoring! Oh my God! Impeach Him!
But all I have to say is, I have Pardoned Him!

John Sevcik

The Pardoner's Tale

There were these three great guys;
They would've won any drinking prize.
I oughta know, I mean, they were great winners
At any slots or blackjacks. But they were sinners
As I remember them: great guys, the greatest
But I had to have them guarded and they weren't the latest
To need it, believe me. Casinos!
I could tell you some stories, Campesinos!
The lives that I brought low!
Their money went to me, and they got the blow:
Lost marriages, bankruptcies, debt!
And all this flowed to me: Trump, Game, Set!
So while the retirees are being bused back home broke
Reflect on what a greedy, seedy bloke
Would own and prosper in the great greed joke!
Here today, gone tomorrow, is the existential hoax.
I oughta know; I've been both down and up!
What matters is where you end before you sup.
Did you profit? Did you lose momentum?
Gain on earth is the only quantum,
Even Indians had their wampum! Listen,
No one cares if you cheated in school or if you're wizen
And still chasing women. What matters
Is did you win? That virtue shatters
All your little ones. Who lives on the hill beyond your means?
The best Christian? The rich guy who demeans
Women, ladies and gentlemen!
So you can predict what I will mention
As the fault of our threesome young men,
That they were losers in the end.
Couldn't keep it up! Couldn't win!
So here is how it went one night.
They were having free drinks and getting in a fight.
Says one of them: I'm going to be President!
The other two aren't hesitant
And make a lot of fun of him.
Let's just get past your little whim
And ask the fortune teller what she thinks.
They're late for her but meet instead two shrinks.
The shrinks are attending a conference
In my lofty tower built for gamblers anonymance!
One is a Russian, the other's a spy.
That's why everyone knows this isn't a lie.
So the two shrinks tell the three losers how they can tell
If one of them will ever become President, of hell.
Because that's what it is, you know,
Hell, because Washington has such a smell.
Not a business; a beggars' opera!
So the shrinks, having studied this aria,
Tell our heroes to go forth into night where they will find a tree.
This tree will show them under the lee
Among the bayberry brambles in a moonless night
Which of them will become President Fright.
That's right. Off they go quite drunk.
On the way they stumble into a skunk.
Already dead, roadkill, how it stunk!
Tougher and with vile oaths
They grumbled onward, triple foes.
Finally one of them bumps into it.
The tree, an oak, gives him a brandy fit.
The other two trip over him anon.
They settle there in stupor with a gun.
Where did this gun come from, says one?
The other two pay no attention.
They their eyes are feasting on a hoard
Of Golden Rubles, with IOU scored
Across each one of their bright faces.
Meanwhile, they sense they're sitting in feces.
Which one is going to be President?
The one with the gun suggests it is evident.
All they have to do is play Russian Roulette.
And so they begin their experiment in fate.
Two losers are worth it, if the third
Comes out smelling like roses.
And here let me tell you why I know zis.
I was sniffing for the source of all this crap,
And saw the three drunks trap
Themselves into a drunken bind,
Fumbling around for light of a kind
On their dumb phones, saying what
The shrinks said and how sad that,
And how wasted they were, and God
Wasn't for them, nor they for God!
At last the two were dead of their own luck,
But drunk as he was the third one went amok.
He wasn't counting, or maybe he counted too much.
His turn he still had to take, and so and such.
At last the three of them were over and out.
Measuring their debting, cursing, drinking bout
From the safety of death, whom no one can convict,
Innocent of everything they ever did commit.
And now I sit among them and the offal smell
And hearing of this miserable loser tell
He would be President, and that and then
The money came to him, through other men.
So what, they weren't from Atlantic City;
I'd save us some money and build up American pity
For how rotten everything was, and how they should curse
Against one another to make everything worse.
Until I seem great, like a lucky lotto machine
That they hazard a guess will make everything new and clean!
Ha! Good luck on that! My brand is bonded,
On the country's own Treasury sounded.
Co-fever I got them all spinning
Roulettes in their heads, grinning
Until Kingdom Comes and I have to unload
The terrible terrible bombs the scriptures foretold.
But hey, they want to Impeach,
But I'm no peach, no Georgia peach.
They don't know who owns me, or whom I owe.
I owe, you owe, he, she, it owe
A whole lotta rubles, my dear.
Loser? Or winner? Not clear?
Let's pretend it's a wonderful thing
And ask no more questions or think.
Success is all mine, and you drink,
From my tits, unless you truth blink
And it all comes down to nought;
Perish that; perish that thought!

John Sevcik