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The Wayward Poet

Ruminations, Illuminations, Musings, and Original Work by Chester Sakamoto

“Insurgent Art”

Keith Haring

The resistance begins underground.

Stepping out of the subway car,

A bespectacled young man,

Armed only with a piece of chalk,

Takes to a blank space of wall between two advertisements

And furiously etches a depiction

Of the Burning of Rome.

As a crowd of curious onlookers gathers ‘round him,

The scene comes to life beneath his nimble fingers:

Nero sits in the foreground, laughing maniacally,

Plucking out the chords to “Desolation Row”

On his lyre.

Citizens, both plebeians and peasants,

Make their way through a triumphal arch

As the hounds of Hell trail them in hot pursuit,

While the lone soothsayer,

Who foresaw all of this coming,

Asks forgiveness from the entire pantheon of gods

Before she chews on a cyanide pill.

The audience on the subway platform oohs and ahhs,

Unaware of what’s taking place above them,

Inches from their heads:

 

A vicious counteroffensive is unfolding.

Missiles loaded with hateful ideologies,

Reduce the cityscape to rubble.

Nihilist tanks

Crush any and all opposition

While fatalistic fighter jets

Run down what few survivors remain.

In an instant,

Years of hard work,

History,

And prosperity, erased,

Completely obliterated.

 

But the seed has been planted.

In the muggy, dank subway station,

Protected from the destruction and violence of the surface world,

Something beautiful will arise,

A beacon in a landscape obscured by smoke and ash.


© Chester Sakamoto

“Consider the Aurochs”

aurochs
au·rochs
ˈouˌräks,ˈôˌräks/
noun
 
  1. a large wild Eurasian ox that was the ancestor of domestic cattle. It was probably exterminated in Britain in the Bronze Age, and the last one was killed in Poland in 1627.

A strong wind blows tonight.

Catching the breeze,

I whisk myself nine thousand miles

To the caves at Lascaux

In the south of France.

There, in the dim light,

My eyes take in the legendary aurochs,

Stampeding across the stony walls

As it has for countless millennia.

 

Situated at the foot of Wall Street,

The bronze bull stands frozen in time,

Yet in a constant state of anticipation.

Ready to charge,

A sneer curls his lip

And his eyes contort with blind rage.

 

But I fear not,

For I know that he, like me,

Is a misunderstood creature,

Tethered by social constructs

And imprisoned by misconceptions.

 

Slowly, gingerly, I reach out my hand

To comfort the brazen beast.

When my eyes flutter open,

The anger in his gaze

Has been stripped away,

And in its place, a spark of something greater.

Is it hope?  Relief?  Happiness?

He steps forward,

Gently nuzzling my arm,

And I could swear there are tears in his eyes.


© Chester Sakamoto

“Private Outcry”

Lenin

My hatred of hospitals

Dates back to my childhood

When, at the age of six,

I was confined to Urgent Care for a week

After suffering a severe asthma attack.

A terrorist cell in my lungs

Restricted all airflow,

Making each breath painful and labored.

It was as if razor blades

Had made their way into my chest.

As I lay on the gurney, recovering,

I saw all manner of people

Trudge through the automatic doors,

Moaning and carrying their exposed organs

In their hands,

Gore and viscera dripping behind them

Like the bloody trail that follows an army of wounded soldiers,

Ripped open by the scars of battle.

 

So, too, is the current condition of the world,

A sick, twisted place overrun by the retched,

Marred by evil and wickedness.

The earth is rushed in on a stretcher,

An IV injected into its oil-rich vein.

The nurses and doctors do all they can to save it,

But, alas, it is too late.

Violence and chaos have won.

The EKG flat-lines

And planet earth is pronounced dead

At exactly midnight

On the doomsday clock.

 

How can one hope to survive in an age

Where all decency

Has been thrown out the window?

Selfishness, greed, arrogance,

These are the morals of our times.

As good people suffer,

Tearfully pleading for any hope of salvation,

The vile seem to thrive

Like cockroaches,

Which have survived every cataclysm

Since the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

 

A shrill, inhuman, animal cry

Rises from the deepest fathoms of my being

And escapes from my throat with the force and power

Of a hundred nuclear detonations.

Whitman’s barbaric yawp

And the howl of Ginsberg

Pale in comparison.

It is a shriek of change,

Of revolution,

Of communal introspection,

One that I can only hope stirs fear in the hearts of those

Who are impervious to the feelings of anyone

But their own.

 

Satan stalks the streets of cities,

His claw-like hand leaving bloody imprints on the walls of alleys, buildings, and businesses.

In tow, his minions dance and frolic,

Imps with forked tongues and scaly skin.

They laugh maniacally at the warzone that is Skid Row.

Wayward souls,

Children of the night,

Swim in pools of spiritual stagnation

While their fever dreams keep them awake,

Shivering underneath blankets

Made from executive orders and promises not kept.

 

“The past is for poetry,”

Lord Krishna says to me

As he takes me in his arms and we fly

Over the rooftops of a city made of concrete and steel.

With a wave of his hand,

It all becomes a giant mandala

Whose vibrant colors and intricate pattern

Remind me of the beauty still left in the world.

 

Perhaps the earth can be saved.

 

Across the many years that have elapsed since that hospital visit,

Six-year-old me wakes up on that selfsame gurney,

A big smile plastered on my face,

For I know that the future

And humanity

Will be alright in the end.


© Chester Sakamoto

“Salamander”

Mahakala

“I am signaling you through the flames.”  –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Out of the darkness

Associated with dreamless sleep,

A series of images bubble to the surface

Like air pockets in the primordial ooze

Of a tar pit.

Prehistoric oxygen,

Trapped for eons,

Mad for a taste of sunlight.

 

To say “death”

Is to conjure up a thousand morbid thoughts.

Macabre,

Like the Dance of Death,

Where one sidesteps with the Reaper

Cheek to cheek,

Until the soul is led by an escort of angels

To become a part of the universe.

 

Living on society’s edge,

The addicted and the damned cry out into the night,

Clawing at their skin and reaching out for something as yet unattainable

Within a graveyard of trees.

In the dull pallor of a streetlight’s glow,

Their bodies contort into a myriad of frightening shapes.

 

Lying in the grass,

Not far away,

Is a red Solo cup,

A sure sign that I’ve entered someone’s drunken hallucination,

(Delirium tremens is, in fact, contagious,)

But my consciousness is drifting down the Mekong,

Or the Yangtze,

Or any river in Asia

Upon whose shores both farmers and bodhisattvas

Eke out their seemingly meaningless existence

Making a living or seeking enlightenment.

 

Baptism by fire

Is the only way to purge oneself of inner turmoil and strife

In this day and age.

Thus, with gasoline and a lighted match,

I situate myself in the dead center of a busy intersection

And burst into flame

Amid the shouts and chaos

That surround me.

Shanti, shanti, shanti.


© Chester Sakamoto

“California Pastoral”

heavenly-pancake

The scene spills out of a saxophone,

Blue and sensuous,

As an airplane bisects the crescent moon.

The earth breathes,

Heaving a collective sigh,

Causing the leaves to rustle.

 

What shall we talk about tonight, Bashō?

Haiku is best understood

During the Indian summer months.

 

It’s just past three a.m.

When I drunkenly stumble through

The university commons.

On Fraternity Row,

The lighted windows present a myriad of tableau

As studious scholars bend over their work,

Liquid Moloch coursing through their veins.

 

Fog creeps down from the hills,

Filling my mind with the densest of hazes,

Obscuring my fondest memories and desires.

 

And I start to question if any of it’s real.

My friends, experiences,

I’ve lost all sense of time.

Even as these words appear, the days, weeks, months, and years

Vanish without a trace,

Teetering on the edge of the supermassive black hole

That is the Mojave Desert

(For all its savage beauty.)


© Chester Sakamoto

“The Art of Walking”

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Pittsburgh is a state of mind,

And it is with this mentality that I

Went for a walk the other evening.

The three rivers of my mind coalesced

At a fixed point,

Leading me to a door on the sidewalk

In front of a ramshackle house,

Of which a stained-glass window depicting a rose

Was the only object of color

In an otherwise black and white world.

Scarlet crimson, absinthe green,

It called out to me,

Urging me not to plunge into the void

That awaited me on the other side.

 

I am too often a solitary creature,

Refusing company so as to be alone.

Climbing up the hill, the streetlights illuminate my thoughts.

The smell of nature, intoxicating.

A pine needle finds its way into my vein

And injects there an ample dose of melancholy and nostalgia

As Los Angeles sparkles below like a million diamonds.


© Chester Sakamoto

“Pandemonium Express”

wildfire

The moon is obscured by darkness,

A luminous eye sliced open.

The vitreous fluid pours forth,

The optic nerve severed,

Proverbial blindness, revealing the dark recesses

Of the soul.

 

The hatred I harbor for you is epic, Shakespearean.

It is Romeo and Tybalt, settling an age-old feud.

It is Romulus and Remus, fighting to the death for the birth of an empire.

It is Hamilton and Burr on that fateful morning in Weehawken.

Brother against brother,

Man against man,

Lover against lover,

Until all that’s left is a burning pile of cinders and ashes.


© Chester Sakamoto

 

 

“As I Lay Living”

sherman-oaks

The clouds above roll like waves

On a fathomless sea.

In the outwardly Zen stoicism of the suburbs,

Where human potential goes to die,

People lose their minds behind closed doors

As they watch the barrage of news reports and negativity,

A psychedelic torrent of Technicolor nightmare.

They numb themselves with pills or drink

Or else get lost in a marijuana haze.

The light from their windows spills onto the street

So that I, curious, catch brief glimpses

Into their lives.

Cinéma vérité on a small but epic scale.


© Chester Sakamoto

“When the Virginia Wolf Attacks”

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Situated in this vast wasteland,

I find myself alone,

Adrift as a speck of dust

On the winds of time.

 

A dim glow can be seen on the horizon

As the first star of the evening rises in the eastern sky.

Distant, remote,

I project my hopes and dreams on this lone celestial entity.

 

Draped on the side of an empty road

Is a surrealist clock.

Studying its mechanisms, I consult my bestiary in a clearing at night

As the howl of the Virginia wolf calls into the void.

Melancholy, Modernist,

It’s a cry for comfort and reassurance,

Even as it’s drowned out by the sound of rushing water.

 

The heart on the ultrasound screen

Becomes a telescopic image

Of the universe within us all.

A solitary planet in a sea of nothingness,

Keeping in time with the music of the spheres.


© Chester Sakamoto

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