Poem of the Day

San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck is curating a Poem of the Day with San Francisco Public Library for every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back daily for a new poetic offering from assorted local poets or view the archive of previous day's poems.


by John Curl


Don't take your chains so personally; keep
them in perspective: human life will
someday cease, even life itself, all energy
slowing into nowhere nowhen, the universe
like a giant eye closing shut, & even then,
what dreams the universe might then dream!
Still now IS & is HERE & that is all
you & I will ever see, no matter
how many different realities
we may have seen or may see.
And NOW / HERE you & I are chained,
some to the oars & some in the hold of
a slave galley. And petty-master swaggers
down the row & flicks his whip & mutters
about how lucky we are to be free to
choose between the guard-stalked ship &
the shark-prowled sea, as we patrol the oceans
of the world in search of booty, plundering all
we meet & murdering all who would resist.
And each morning the captain appears
on the bridge in his pin-striped suit & salutes
as the guard raises the colors: the bugler blows
of stripes & stars, but we fly the jolly roger.
And you & I, poor slaves in the scheme of all
that exists, what can we do but salute when
we're told, pull our oars, remember, be,
& persist until the world somehow works
through this pain to some better eventually?
But deep down we all know
we'll never reach shore
until we mutiny.


View John Curl's work in the Library catalog