Five poems by Bear Jack Gebhardt

  1. Heavy Legs


I find myself disturbed
at the sound of children laughing, running:
my own grandson– his friends.

I find myself touchy, testy, withdrawn.
I would that I could shake from these old legs
the memory ache of Dallas and JFK,
the heavy image of his brother Bobby
fatally falling in that crowd in L.A.
Martin’s Memphis balcony weighs my feet.
How do I cleanse the clogged veins
of these last five decades of wars and grief–
the liars and thieves, the sorrow of
Ruwanda, Darfur, now Iraq, Kabul, Syria.

I would that I could shake this world off,
not be disturbed with the bright sounds
my own damned children make.
I would run with them, I would,
laugh, point
toward the bright days they see ahead.

“Hush,” I hear my daughter say.
“Grandpa’s resting.”

Her words disturb me in a different way.
I slowly stand, arch, stretch,
reach for my beret, my cane,
make my way back to the street,
to the good fight, to the barricades

that my grandson might play another day.



  1. We Spent Uranium


We spent this nickel, bought some ground
Some poor Baghdad kid’s stuck with the round
Next four thousand years or more.

Puts it in his drawer,
It melts his socks, shirt, underwear,
Curls his testicles, deforms
Toddler feet, facial bones, kidneys.
So we give him back his town.

We spent a dime, bought some time,
Some poor Kabul kid’s left with grime
That won’t wash off, electric dust;
The water itself is spoiling, tingling,
Fields turn yellow long before harvest.
The kid’s gut hurts, our dime sticks
To his cheek, burns through to his teeth.
We let the Red Cross/Crescent in.

We spent uranium,
Used it for our bullets, shells,
Our bombs, our sweet so-called victories.
Our kids follow our trail,
Come back home mysteriously ill.
Those bastards poisoned our kin,
We tell the press, licking our lips.

The highway of death out of Kuwait,
A dozen years later, still littered
Untouched by scavenger kids who know–
Who’ve seen, who’ve heard—
These spent uranium carcasses still kill.

Of all the lies we’ve told,
Of all the violent, vicious, black mouthed lies we’ve told,
This one: “it’s safe for kids and pets, this
Radiant spent uranium,” this is the lie
Will lead our kids to put us on trial at Nuremberg.


  1. Civilization Reversed


“Assassins must be assassinated.”
And yet… our legislatures, parliaments,
city regents,  tribal councils,  our courts,
a thousand years of representatives…

all evolved what’s right, what’s wrong, who makes law,
who doesn’t.  We case by case, vote by vote
built this borderless body of laws, hopes.
No man is above this long tradition.

Assassinations without a jury
flaunt, slam the door, spit on all our forebears,
our legislation, legal agreements.
Civilization itself gets reversed

when faceless machine drones assassinate.
No justice here. No law. No safety. No progress.
Just blood vengeance.



  1. Feeding the Freedom Dream  


Train slows coming ’round Nuncio curve…
old Uncle Lucio stands by the track, throws small bags
tortillas, cooked beans, water bottles
to the vacaros riding the tops of the cars
making their way north to freedom.

Uncle Lucio, who himself has no wood for floors,
whose small pension allows for meat just three times a week
throws bundles of hope to those going north.

His grandson, my cousin, Porfio,
has not been heard from in years.



5. Fighting the Newspaper Wars


The barbarians are at the gate.
The mega-media-chain’s claw reached out
first tickled, then fondled,  then lay itself down
to consume our longtime little paper,
only local news outlet.

Bon appetite,” the fatalists shout.
I’m drawn into the fray, to the barricades
speak on local radio, say exactly why
we should not in this instance sacrifice
our lovely local hometown virgin
to the drooling maws of that lecherous beast.

Okay, granted, she’s not that virtuous, wears short skirts,
paints her lips red, eyes blue, they do
admittedly desire each other’s parts.
Neither of them express much tact or taste
in the face of human love or tragedy—
tender wringing of hands
over the death of a son at war,
a kitten trapped in a tree—
equally ground into their daily
to boost circulation.

Still, I’m called to the barricades. Goliaths
march on our town, I’m among the appointed Davids–
we who must meet Goliath at the Interstate Exit,
throw our stones, hope to connect
bulls eyes, smack in the temple ,
see the giant tumble to the ground,
listen as the crowds shout, Huzahh! Huzahh!

Alas, it’s not to be.
I don’t want the bastards here, granted.
yet they’re already here, head to toe, butt to balls
we’ve long been occupied by the giant corps—
our papers, our phones, our tv’s
we already gave up our booty when we deign
to read those full page ads from Chase or the Gap.

Nevertheless, sure, I’ll man the barricades, toss
stones, grenades, toasters, tell the bastards,
“Back off, Back off, stay away, not in our name,”
Then, as they move inexorably ahead
as they churn up and over our makeshift fort
as they’ve done in every town across the land–
I’ll run away
To fight, of course, another day. To fight
when some old chum calls  once again,
asks me, begs me, please, please dude,
come on my show once more and talk
with your common sense powerful voice,
your clear conscience, independent spirit,
tell us all, once again,  exactly why
gravity itself is such a bummer.