Go Forth, Graduates! To all you graduates, fare well! This world is yours today. Don’t follow the masses who sell Their minds or don cliché For meaning. The sky is crimson But not dark, the body Sick but not dead. Summon Your courage and join me! Get ready for the mouths you trust To obfuscate and lie; Stand firm against the verbal thrust That bleeds conviction dry. For if you withstand the onslaught, The siege to seize your mind, You’ll gain a power earned, not bought— To see where sight is blind. Don’t expect warnings to be heard By the truth-deafened horde, Or noble actions considered By eyes fixed on reward, Yet if you struggle long enough To change what must be changed, Though cowards might your cause rebuff, The strong will be engaged. Just as that well-known saying goes, “It only takes a spark To ignite a fire,” heroes Can burn their lasting mark Just by glinting among the leaves. A glow of modest heat Can alter what the world perceives, Like dawn to a heart’s beat. So, go forth! Join me in this fight! For the mercenaries Of truth have fled the looming night, And ranks now take their ease. Only True soldiers can restore Our retreating kingdom To its foundation of before, When Reason ruled the drum. The Jasmine When the jasmine blooms, my faith is renewed, As a mortal fed with ambrosial food. If the world is murky, its omens bleak, My vistas somber, or this body weak, One scent of that sweetness restores my mood. Though many choose to be hateful and lewd, And virtue is less often cheered than booed, My hopeful spirit will always be piqued When the jasmine blooms. The morning’s horizon is crimson hued, All the weapons of apocalypse queued; Bedeviled prophets lack the words to speak, While in battle each soldier turns his cheek. Yet, through my nose, a bright future’s construed When the jasmine blooms. Ode: Hail You, Demagogues Demagogue: (n.) A leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason. Let us hail you, demagogues, Both the women and the men, You wolves who pose as sheepdogs To deceive the herds again. Though your howling is cliché, Raw emotions shape each word (As a sculptor molds her clay) Till some unique truth is heard, Wisdom fired from absurd. To you demagogues we sing, Both the seasoned and the new— The politician barking, And the shouting student, too. Perhaps your tactics are crude, Stirring the heart, not the head, Yet feelings can’t be argued And civility is dead; Logic lately turned and fled. Let you demagogues hear praise From a fawning media And our culture set ablaze. We’ll form an angry conga— Dance behind each firebrand. Be he dark- or orange-haired; Be she pasty-white or tanned, Once your gritted teeth are bared, Fevered phrases shall be shared. For you demagogues, we kneel, Like converts before a shrine Or young groupies hot with zeal. We’ll trust the catchy headline, Pay the substance no concern— Facts really aren’t important Where thought has turned post-modern. When truth is not a constant, Harsh words can sing if fervent. Hail to you, agitators, From the right or on the left, Who erase your foes with slurs, Leave us a landscape bereft Of mere courtesy and class. You provoke our latent fear, Pique the envy to amass Greater power year by year— Soothing poison for the ear. For you demagogues, we yield. Your charisma makes us fly To some righteous battlefield (Never pausing to ask why). You transform the fair to foul, Change the foul to something fair, Like magic. The masses howl Your dark slogans in the air With the depth of wolfish prayer. Shall we reject you, demagogue, Who makes enemies of friends, Shuts down pesky dialogue That the wilted mind offends? After all, you’re our teachers, Those pillars on whom we trust— If our salt fosters fevers, Are we turning back to dust? Oh, ignorance most earnest! But if we don’t hail your name, There will be some price to pay— Mobs might shower us with shame, Take our inborn rights away. Is it wiser to join the fold Than stand, fearful and alone? Many minds are hocked or sold For safety and bars of gold. Should the rank seeds you have sown Spawn polluting weeds when grown, What gross garden will we own? Vomiting Poetry (On Free Verse) “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.” —Mark Strand Images drip from my moistened lips. There is no sickness like mine. I have been vomiting poetry. The reader can not perceive what she reads. Her eyes are strained, so she turns on the television. The poems are there. The contents are sharp. The chunks are in my stomach and pushing up. They hurl from my mouth, splash on the world like Rorschach blots. The sad reader turns away and starts to weep. She does not understand. When I flick words like Pollock’s hand, she flees. I am a poet. I puke in the pungent dark. I make my literary mark. Ron L. Hodges is a long-time English teacher, having taught at Oxford Academy in Cypress, California, for the past ten years. About a year ago he started writing poetry, and has had three poems published so far in Ancient Paths Literary Magazine. He lives in Orange County, California with his wife and two sons.