Dean Blehert reviews
“Dean Blehert is a radical innovator in contemporary poetry. He has rediscovered pleasure. His poems are (how contrarian!) both fun to read and wonderfully perceptive about the follies of modern life.”
“His is a godforgiven universe and basically a happy universe, and he laughs immoderately because he has chosen not to lie.”
Dave Castleman, reviewer, Dusty Dog
The Right to Be Divine
Human rights—we’re supposed to have them if we’re human—but does anyone have the right to be merely human?
If you ARE human, no doubt you’ve seen many violations of human rights and learned you have the right to remain silent…unless you are a poet, but that, perhaps, is more than human.
Some say the rights come to us from God. Some say they are reason, common sense. Some say they don’t exist. They have the right to say those things, right?
But what of MY right to say “Shut the fuck UP!” To swat someone for saying such things, to pay thugs (isn’t it my money) to batter them for saying such things or mow them down?
For every right, so many wrongs! What about democracy, the right of a majority to decide what is right for all? If individuals have rights, what’s left for our hamstrung majority? Perhaps the right not to listen? The right to be snide?
(Some say, however, that hate is a crime. I think I have the right to hate, but reject any obligation to do so.)
Babies, animals, men, women—all have rights. What about the rights of tyrants? Oh, that’s right—tyrants don’t NEED rights. Bankers, corporations, Madison Avenue, psychiatry—THEY don’t need no steenking RIGHTS! They don’t need the right to kill, the right to lie, to deny and deny, since no one is stopping them.
We call something a right when we don’t have it, when it is NOT given. A politician’s right to lie is given, perhaps not GOD-given, but it’s like a coin found in the street—you’re a fool not to pick it up. “If you don’t, someone else will.” The right to say things that upset lots of people—that’s not a given, but something one must seize and defend. Is it rational? Only to one who can perceive what isn’t there—
see how rights denied others will eventually be denied the deniers as well and how one of the nuts who screams in the street may be telling us the one thing that will save us.
Do unto others as you would have yet others, generations later, do unto whatever of you survives, as yourself or your lineage or whatever you loved.
No one gives you rights. Rights are taken. We think our rights were taken on our behalves (as if WE were only half-beings) centuries ago, won for us by Founding Fathers and hard fighting in vicious wars. No–rights must be taken, demanded, protected again and again in every generation. We speak of securing them. There is no securing them. We take them, insist on them again and again, as again and again those who imagine they profit from having enslaved multitudes find ever more subtle ways to take our rights away.
You do not have the right to be a slave. An odd thing to say, but slavery is irresponsibility. It is illegal to drive a car without controlling the car, to let the car run amok, smashing into pedestrians and other cars. Bodies are dangerous too. If you want to run one, you must take some responsibility for it, for family, friends…no, slavery is not a right.
A safety net is for those who risk the high wire and fall, not for those who never rise from the couch in front of the TV. A slave is one who abets (whether abed or a-couch) the enslavement of a multitude, even a multitude of one. Fortunately the idea that many welfare recipients are couch potatoes is just a myth (I’ve been assured), so skip this paragraph–or read it with the understanding that getting through childhood or raising children (especially without a father) is treading a high, thin wire.
Rights are earned.
The only true help makes a person freer. When enslavers rule, it is illegal to help. Those who, like psychiatrists, enslave under the guise of help, are promoted. Those who can empower, are banned. The right to help others, even more than the rights to speak, to worship, to assemble, must be taken and taken again. That one right, defended, enables all others, since what empowers individuals leaves the slave-masters alone to bicker among themselves.
Only God has the right to be divine. So do you, when you are that which is He/She/It (and that’s GOOD he/she/it!) It is perhaps the right to choose your pronoun. You have the right to be less than you could be, if you are that desperate to have a game. You have the right to play when others are serious—if you seize that right. You can take that right—if you can take it.
I have the right to call this a poem, but I waive that right.
Write to Remain
“Anything you say can be used against you.”
Comforting to know
my every word
is of use.
I use dangerously plain words.
They don’t take to strangers.
You could get hurt
trying to use my words
You don’t love my words at all!
You’re just using them!
“Say Yes! to life.” “Just say no.”
You have the right to remain silent.
“Do you deny saying ‘the’,
‘if’, ‘and’, ‘on’, and ‘you’?”
No…but it was just talk!
I didn’t mean anything by it!
They read you your rights.
Your wrongs you already know
“Do you deny saying ‘glimmer’,
‘conflagration,’ ‘gossamer’, ‘bonewhite’
Yes, those were my words, but
that’s not what I meant at all.
“Where was your face before you were born?”
It went for a walk, alone, then to a movie.
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
I hear it often at poetry readings.
“Did you ever say “O!”, “frail”, “geometry of winter”,
“I know not what”, “flashed a smile”, “darted a glance” and
“into the night”?
I used the words, sure, but they weren’t mine,
none of them, I stole them all; always,
behind the words of others,
I was silent.
Well, borrowed, yes, but only to speak
to those with borrowed ears.
I told them what they wanted to hear.
Nothing I said can be used.
Not even against the alleged me.
“You deny being me?”
There’s no proof.
Pronouns have been protected
to change the innocent.
“Read him his rights.”
(Ah, write me, my readers!)
(Yes, book me, chapbook me, anthologize me,
page me, sentence me…)
How can I remain silent
when I have never been silent?
“You are accused of being
here and communicating!”
“Anything you say will be taken down…”
What is taken down
must be taken up.
Do you think your silence cannot be used
against you? We have ways
of making you talk:
“See the birdie! Say birdie!
Very Goood! Now, see the doggie!…”
It was only a game, I just wanted
to create an effect, I didn’t mean.
“A likely story.”
“Just tell me one thing:
Did you do it?” Yes, but it was
“How do you plead?”
With all my heart.
“I’m innocent!” he cried
Honest, I’m just a fresh new voice,
speaking with an authority and mature vision
beyond my years and sustaining
a delicate ironic balance…
“Objection: Irrelevant, incompetent
and immaterial.” “Sustained.”
“S-s-stained!” stuttered the s-s-specked.
What IS the truth, the whole truth
and nothing but the truth?
(Silence in the court)
You are already sentenced to life
and death: What can be done to you?
Life without parole, that is,
life without the word, silence.
I have given you my words,
and speak them now
only if you speak them.
is my silence.
Don’t be silent; be silence:
When silence speaks,
I retain the right
to remain violent.
You have the silence
to remain right.
You have the right to
The rite has you.
Don’t forget to write.