3 Poems by Ben Riddle

Punk Noir Magazine

Detroit Skylines

I dream about the skylines of Detroit,
the empty houses selling for nothing but
the bills that fill banks by the river,
the poverty of people who
cannot afford to pay
for water, electricity so
they cluster like illegal missiles
inside the silos of
cardboard cages
playing at survival
hiding from cop cars
like they are corn spooked
by crows circling the skies, like
vultures waiting to pick at
the corpse of democracy
rotting like lynched
leaves holding
on to hope at the end of autumn.
acid rain pisses into water tanks,
circular prayers for help
asked for and half
received, trains
clatter ever onward
stoic automatons made of tin
and token electricity programmed
to never remember anyone
that leaves. the
underground railroads once
took slaves north to freedom, now
they carry collared slaves in
black ties back and
forth for all
of every day, echoing
like a pendulum in front of
each worker’s eyes, hypnotising
them with whispers of
how every day is the same,
how nothing will ever change.
my nightmares look like a Detroit skyline.

Sheikh Jarrah

In solidarity with the people of Palestine.

They walked the rest of the way to Jerusalem.
No one lay palm leaves at their feet,
no one offered donkeys
for the tired,
the lame.
No one stopped to wash the feet
of anyone hurting or
grieving.
There was no neighbourly compassion,
instead men that work
in synagogues
crossed the street
to avoid the people
of Palestine,
bankers turned
their eyes
from the refugees walking,
marching endlessly toward the city.

 

The next day they hid in a mosque,
and I wonder if Christ was there
whether he’d have flipped
tables to make barricades,
or taken bottles of wine,
blessed them and
set them
alight as Molotov cocktails,
whether he’d say do this
in remembrance
of me, of you; of home.
Would he kneel with the leper,
to better remember:
blessed are the meek,
but rarely does it feel that way.

No one ever wrote scripture with
bullet casings. The only fires
that made anything holy
spoke to Moses.
God does not speak to me.
I wish he would speak peace
to the Holy City, but
tonight there is 
fire in Al-Aqsa.
Tomorrow, children
will make pictures out of
bullet casings,
of tear gas
canisters that have
blown themselves out of
angry, colonial propaganda.

I often wonder if I carry the sins
of my father, whether blood 
stains my skin for how
my father drank,
for the guns
he carried,
that old soldier and his stories.
Tomorrow, I watch children
play in the dust of
the earth that
bore them, that kisses
their dirty feet in the Holy City;

They laugh like angels, and I do not know
how fallen man must be to hate them. 

Firechild

We stole fire from the gods, used it
to give ourselves life, used it
to breathe fire into our
hearts; less
dragons than
dragonflies filled with
frenetic energy eccentric energy,
lusting longing desperate
for life and to live, to
spit and fuck
and thrive,
I don’t know how we got here.
Sitting in caves, looking at blue light
casting shadows on the walls;
endlessly interrupting
our exhausted
attempts at sleep.
I don’t know how to fall any more,
to sleep, or in love, too
captivated by myth
or the unknowing
uncoupling
we have; a divorce
from my own basic nature
and from an animal humanity.
Instead, we worship airbrushed
likenesses; as if we fuck ourselves
to exhaustion over porcelain
statues begging for
life like pornographic
Pinocchios, like all of Peter’s
disciples begging for
the divine at
the hem of a man
only human, like all of
Pan’s lost boys begging to
go home and be loved
again, exiled from
an ideal they can only
dream of, and half remember.
Desperate like every illness that
came out of Pandora’s box
to get away from

humanity, to go back
back into a quarantine exile
away from the prayers
of colonial terrorists
as they spit on
the fetishised likeness
of a bleak, pale humanity;
skull fucked like a corpse by
a necrophile officer of
the law; unable
to rest even in the morgue.
There is no tyrant quite like hope,
like believing you can make
a world that is better
for your children;
there are no real love childs anymore,
just birth attempts at escapism like
we pooled all of our mistakes
and threw it at the wall
asked this Pollock
painting to save us,
from ourselves or from madness.
I don’t know why we made
ourselves mothers when
we could have been
revolutionaries.
Don’t know why we made ourselves
baby makers, baby takers,
don’t know why we’re surprised
when the oppressed tell us 
about barbed wire fences
about broken homes 
while we turn celestial ascendance 
into decadence, belligerent 
bourgeois blinding

the people
to the possibility of class warfare,
hiding authoritarianism
behind legalist
lawfare. Naked emperors hide
in plain sight behind truths that
man-made slaves choose not to see;
we took fire from the gods,
I don’t know why we don’t
take power from kings.
The only fires
I see us lighting
start and end with gas.
I’ve never been a part of a pregnancy
scare, never pulled at hair and
asked myself whether
I’m ready;
never worried about a love child,
fire child; born of water
to die in space
breathing, heaving
in loneliness. I only hold
men as they come home untouched,
starved of affection, dying
of nationhood, or
patriotism.
I’ve never held a stillborn,
just the last gasping breaths
of democracy as it dies coughing
up the cancer of late stage capitalism,
asphyxiating on the privilege of
vaccine patents, on
resuscitated replicated
ramifications of
Rupert Murdoch’s press,
choking on the Koch brothers’ gall
as I hold living, breathing
people while we wait
for an ambulance
or an intervention that
costs more than the votes it’ll lose.
I have watched men I love plead
guilty instead of fighting
police brutality,
because they can’t afford to lose.
I have watched men I love
cast themselves into
fire like they are
invulnerable Achilles
marching across the Somme,
surprised when some
come back with
white supremacy
in their blood when
terrorism was the closest
they ever found to forgiveness.
Surprised when they came
back sure they were
platelets instead
of the cancer
when all
they’ve ever seen
was blue fungal corruption
in the lungs of our society.
It is hard to sear old flesh when
sickness is already in our
blood, in the genetics
of the men who
stole a generation
then sent their sons to
enforce an establishment
that was always meant to have winners
and losers. I am tired of
losing people that
I love to the
edicts of blue-blooded
corporatists, I’d rather take
the plastic spoon in
the mouth of
my inner
child; turn it into a shiv.
We stole fire from the gods,
and I am tired of using it
to send smoke signals;
asking for help
and having
no one come.
It is time to set fire to
Parliament House,
light fires for
Fawkes and weep
for loss instead of tragedy.
I am tired of touching
the fire of the gods
to my lips and praying
poetry with it, when instead
I can give it to you; and ask for revolution.

Bio: Ben Riddle has been writing and performing for almost ten years now. His work has been published in Europe, Australia and the United States, and he has played stages on both sides of Australia, as well as internationally. These days, he mostly writes in his room, and mutters under his breath on buses.