Kirk Lumpkin







A Midsummer’s Nightmare


                    August 6, 2012, Berkeley, CA

                    with thanks to event organizers, Leila Rae and Arnie Passman



          between the Summer Solstice

          and the Fall Equinox



          for vacation

          and to play in the woods

          as innocent

          as animals and sprites,

          children and young lovers.

But instead

          because our nation

          never admits

          its wrongs,

          continues to empower

          our demons,

          and constantly feeds

          the war machine

We feel called to gather

          in remembrance

          of the bombing

          of Hiroshima—

          nightmare flash-burned

          into the living flesh

          and DNA

          of history.


Those who have fallen

          in love

          and other

          well-meaning fools

          clearly cannot be trusted in



          like those who thought

          it a great idea

          to have all the birds

          in Shakespeare’s plays

          come to live

          in New York City

          with the result that Starlings

          are an exotic invasive species

          across this continent.

But for the invasive species

          looking back from your mirror

          to continue to trust

          our government

          and the corporations

          after all you have seen

          and what you know to be lies

          would be an act of denial

          that becomes complicity.


Turning to leave

          Ohlone Park

          for a second event


          the first attack with an atomic bomb

          on the horizon

          huge black cloud


          from a fire

          at the Chevron Oil Refinery

          that will send

          more than 15,000 residents

          of Richmond, California

          to the hospital.


It is time

          to  leave what’s left

          of the fossil fuel

          in the ground,


          the chain reaction

          of trauma begets trauma begets trauma;


          to leave the atoms

          to their natural wholeness

          and finally understand

          that the real power

          is inside us

And though we cannot choose

          the dreams we have

          we can choose the dreams

          that we pursue.




Passover Moon

          Hollywood, Florida, home of my wife’s grandmother


A full

          Passover moon


          through the open canopies

          of ancient oaks,

          their branches flung wide

          to receive


          some old enough

          to remember

          Florida panthers padding under them

          in another time’s

          Spring moonlight

          before golf course,


          and houses

          were here.


Later, in bed

          hearing a jet



          I feel no

          immediate fear,

          calmly certain

          it will not rain bullets

          or drop bombs

          like war zones

          across this planet

          (Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, etcetera)

          where any jet  might  be

          the angel of death.

And yet

          this seemingly clean

          vapor trail

          (white line


          by moonlight)

          like every jet’s

          is only the tiniest hint

          of what it leaves behind

          in spewed greenhouse gasses.

And every trip

          down this snowy white

          cloud-like path

          takes us closer

          to inevitable


          when we finally see

          the distant blood

          on our hands,


          we have been betrayed

          by ourselves,

          we have broken

          the very body

          of the Earth

          that stares back at us

          from the plates

          on the table

          of this last supper.

The children of Eve and Adam

          in self idolatry

          have been remaking Eden’s


          in our own image

          as though we

          were the master species.

The blood on the lintel

          and the blood in the communion cup

          are the same blood,

          the lamb’s blood,

          and the distant blood,

          is our blood,

          the world’s blood,

          God’s blood,

          a river of blood

          pouring down

          into a red sea

          that could drown

          the whole world.


We have all been called

          to the same great feast,

          the communion of the whole creation

          where all are guests,

          and only that,


          for no one owns

          this house

And none will be saved,

          none passed over

          by the plague,

          by the cross

          of climate change

          unless all

          in household Earth

          are saved.

For us

          and every species

          there is

          no resurrection

          from extinction.


A full Spring moon


          through the open canopies

          of ancient oaks,

          their branches flung wide

          to receive





Hiroshima Prayer


Never again.





Prayer Flag



          is a small


          almost treeless



                    they used to

                    raise their prayers

                    on little flags

                    that fluttered

                    like rectangular

                    tree leaves.

That land

          is now occupied

          by a huge

          foreign power



          is a significant

          trading partner

          of this nation

          of which I

          am a citizen

          by birth,

          this nation

          that now occupies

          other lands

          where prayers rise

          in turquoise domes

          and squawk

          from tinny speakers

          on lovely spires).


One day

          may all people

                    be free,

may no one

          be bombed

                    or tortured,

and may all




          the occupation

          of this land—

          our presence





          this land

          and all

          that are native

          to it;

And may we

          one day


          in a borderless


          of living



                      the churches

                                            are forests

and flagpoles

                                            are trees

                                            whose leaves

                                            are praying


                    that lick

                    the wind

                    with the language

                    of love

                      above roots

                                            reaching deep

                      into our only


                      this Earth.



Prayer Flag was first published in Lalitamba – Issue 3 (2009) in a slightly different form.




A New Holy Grail

          for the two U.S. led wars on Iraq


Where deadlines disappeared

          in desert sands

Our government posed

          as a new order warrior,

          as heroic modern knight

          with fearsome armor spreading

          in rings and levels

          of interlinking technology;

          an armor less clanking

                    than in days of old,

          an armor

                    not worn so close

                    to the body.

And jousting with missles

          doesn’t yield

          the death

                    of a lone champion,

          but in mindless biocide

          wreaks a total devastation.

And thus we launched a modern crusade

          back into the Middle East.

And though chivalry was not discussed

          other noble words

          were often mouthed.

And the newly holy grail,

          believed to endow its consumer

          with the powers of a god,

          was a cocktail made of oil,

          when used as a sacrament

          promptly turned

          to blood.



A New Holy Grail appeared on, in Am Here Forum, and in my book, In Deep.




The Lakes of Band-I-Amir


 (The statues at Bamiyan were the world’s tallest statues of the Buddha with one at 175 feet and another standing 120 feet tall. Though Bamiyan now seems quite isolated, when the statues were created between 200 & 400 A.D., they were part of a center of culture and art on the ancient Silk Road that connected China to the Middle East and Europe.


In 1973, just a couple of years after I visited there in 1971, Band-I-Amir was declared Afghanistan’s first National Park. But, that had never become a functional reality before the Russians invaded in 1979.}



a. The sky blue lakes

          of Band-I-Amir—

          are a bracelet

          of lapis lazuli


          in the canyon dust

          by a joyous goddess

          in her dervish dance—

          now a gift

          for all that pass

          through the arid




b. Just down the valley

          (in a later age

          long after the lakes had formed)

          monks carved

                    huge statues

                    of the Buddha

                    in the living rock,

          honeycombed the cliffs

                    with cells

                    and sanctuaries,

                    that reverberated

                    with their chants

                    and the emptiness

                    of their




a. Now the peace of this place

          is shattered again—

Where the violence

          of the White Huns

          brought them to rule,

Where Genghis Khan

          came slaughtering,

Where conquering emperor,


          first smashed

          the statues’ faces,

Where the British waged

          the Anglo-Afghan War,

Where Russian imperialists

          were a plague,

Where the Taliban

          did ethnic cleansing

          and destroyed

          the world’s tallest statues

          of the Buddha

          and helped


          the world’s tallest temple

                    for the modern god

                    of the global


Where more recently

          U.S. bombs

          smashed rubble

          and people

          into even



And the local villagers

          (Moslems, in this era)

          tough, poor, and proud

          must fear



          and yet another


          this time

          from the other


          of the world.


And the monk’s caves

          are empty

          or hiding places

          for the guilty

          and the innocent,

          and the in between.



b. Here,

          in the nation of my birth

          people are




                    and confused

          by the molten hatred

                    of those

                    that would gladly die

                    to kill us

                    or kill what

                    we seem

                    to stand for.



At the end

          of a dusty burning road


          where my feelings dove

          from the distant peaks

                    of the Hindu Kush

          into wild blue beauty—

                    liquid lapis,


                              Tahoe jewels


                              in the desert—

          sky fused to earth—

          calm, cool, clear,

                    and dark


          for a few


          of golden


          on bright


          of fishes

          swimming up

          from undercurrents

          of memory,




          a mammal


          a human


          we keep


          to remember

          to evolve.



The Lakes of Band-I-Amir was first published in a very different version in my book Co-Hearing  (1983) before the Taliban and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. It was also published in a version very similar to this one in the anthology CANDLES IN THE DARK, FLAMES FOR THE FUTURE: Preaching and Poetry in Times of Crisis (2003). I recorded the version here with music with my poetry/music band, The Word-Music Continuum (Paul Mills – guitar, Mark Randall – bass) on our CD, Sound Poems (2007).




The Lakes Of Band-I-Amir











The Bay Area Poets Seasonal Review:  “Kirk Lumpkin has been an important part of the Bay Area (and beyond) poetry scene for years, hosting readings in San Francisco and Berkeley, helping to facilitate the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival [with Poetry Flash & former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Hass], and hosting open mikes at Burning Man.”

He’s the author of two books of poetry, Co-Hearing and In Deep. He’s released two poetry/music CDs, The Word-Music Continuum and Sound Poems. He’s also released two CDs of original songs, Moondog Sessions and Positive Voodoo.

He’s done featured performances of his poetry all around the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, in Los Angeles, New York City, Colorado; Toronto, Canada and readings in England (under the auspices of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).




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