Poetry — May 7, 2021

"twenty-two meditations" from brett a. maddux's algorithm hymns

Hartford poet brett a. maddux releases his latest collection of poems titled algorithm hymns. “twenty-two meditations” is an extended reflection on life, death, and reincarnation featured in the final section of the book, the tumor hymns. The featured photographs were taken during the writing of the book’s first section, the travel hymns.
 
Poetry & Photographs
by brett a. maddux

twenty-two meditations 


i.
amen again still trying to break the habit

still trying to reach the ground cross-

legged over the connecticut in
suspension trembling shivering above a

shimmering luminosity alive or so they

tell me & downtown i saw a bride &

groom walking alone along a sidewalk

toward the courthouse & at the river’s

edge two children swing in motion each

one aiming for the sky & at a picnic

table three women sit watching & one

says good heavens & they laugh & on

the corridor beneath the bridge they list

the great floods of the past though not all

of them & not the future ones & a man

draws autumn trees in red pencil beside

the sculpture keckly & there are toddlers

in masks grass moved by breeze like

waves descending it has been two

months since my last cigarette it has

been two months since i last spoke to

rose it has been two months since i

learned how to ascend into air & i keep

thinking it will get easier & some days it

does some days parades on pyrrhic

victories but most days i have to take

myself out to clear the lungs & brain a

bit clear the space where kings & queens

are dancing playing their music for gods

own audience first the bend the traffic

casual & then the pirouette

ii.

rested gently upon the lungs bridge

mercy’s blessings life is lived until

forgiveness blends in with the water as

sun eddies grass into the current i have

been told love comes between good &

perfect but i haven’t found it there & i

have been looking & i have been

wondering what it is we come for water

in a spiders web fifteen steps across the

span a gnat that hovers suspended

endlessly over the city & somewhere a

dog is barking as a hawk circles the

aqueduct & i have been wondering what

these animals are doing in my head & on

the tracks a cashed half-smoked cigarette

butt a god that gives until we’ve had

enough

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iii.
god pulls up a chair takes a seat adjusts

the microphone says i would like to play

for you forgiveness psalms in minor key

& they’ll sound just like the ones you

heard before as the radio plays every

station no kings & no solicitations doors

running right up to the water & if the

boatman asks exactly what you came for

i find it’s best to tell the truth or

something close to it on grand pianos

made of metaphor a time that sounds the

same in either three or four a driving

rhythm bodies can’t ignore over the

water now eyes on the shore see gilded

cities made of bended glass flowers &

snakes that blend in with the grass flows

current from the future to the past as

ravens hover for your souls repast &

wonder how long does this morphine

last with lungs that claim to breathe as

clouds roll past you can not take it &

you can’t give it back

 

iv. 
staircase of light that leads you

underneath the boatman asks you for

your baby teeth & quotes a fair price for

your soul before he whispers where’s

your god now & in hartford in ‘36 water

nearly reached the bridge & seven years

before there was depression & three

years later the war was on & in ‘45 they

dropped the bomb & as the floods came

rolling in as hiroshima burned as

children lined up for bread they must

have thought the world was ending

prophecy come water rising markets

collapsing famine & struggle all against

all & lately everyone i talk to seems to

think the world is ending & most of

them seem to think it is happening for

the first time 

 

 

v. 
still here still know that this world is

purgatory still know the magic word will

still not let me in children still on

autumn bicycles therapy still by

telephone still power & its tyrants still to

be covered up with flowers still cheap

thrills still every day changes still a nice

woman in the park told me what the

intelligence chiefs said she should be

afraid of in between ads for life

insurance & heavy duty pick up trucks &

she asked me if i’d heard the bad news

so i read to her from the hymnal glory to

george’s born again evangelists glory to

our bombs glory to their lobbyists all our

war criminals & all of their apologists

their violent client states & their rouge

militant nationalists strange how the

holy water seems to wash away all of the

stains from all of the last wars blood still

talking heads on television still

advertisements for prescriptions still

contractors consultants & henchmen still

have some fear they’d like to sell you

you’ll hear them preaching from the

citadel for those who pray to lords of

nazareth for those who pray to liquor

cabinets for those who pray to be

subanimate just name the dream & they

can sell you that for those who draft the

ones you love a pill to cure your vague

impotent blues turn the volume up here

comes the breaking news

vi. 
the river beneath my body looked like

god herself feeding diamonds to her

horses made of gold floating on the

horizon tall buildings filled with middle

managers queen of all those who show

mercy she has inscribed a circle on the

face of the waters at the boundary

between the light & the darkness

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vii. 
still here soul still tired still counting  

blessings on fingers toes & vertebrae  

bird still comes in low against the wind  

above the water but still it’s coming sun  

side of the hill or shaded still alive or so  

they tell me still grateful for the mystery  

two years since i’ve seen most of my  

friends but i know that they still hold me  

still i am carried on their shoulders there  

is still dirt between my fingers from the  

soil in the gardens where they still teach  

me how to grow the fruit my body  

planted cross-legged on the ground of  

gratitude meditation on two years of  

solitude still god’s needle comes to find  

the groove still my heart can float above  

& float between & from a distance it can  

see them & in an instant it can meet  

them in this liminal attendance out of  

body in transcendence god the meaning  

of forgiveness if you’ve been wondering

where your friends went open the door  

that keeps the record of your time you  

will find it in your mind & you will hear

them playing music in the night & it will  

sound like birds & barking dogs that  

levitate in memory of the way it was the  

way it is the way it will someday be & it  

will wink telling you the cosmic joke  

how you keep thinking life is passing by  

& that you’re real & all of this is really  

happening & when at last you reach the  

end you hear the punch line

 

viii. 
breach i have seen young men in the  

streets some screaming out in fits of  

pique some joyful some in misery hands  

seen reaching out in hunger or in peace  

sometimes in anger or in love sometimes  

in pain the world still seems to turn the  

same so i’ve been trying to become  

vision my eyes & my feet what i say &  

what i mean the difference between  

reverence & reverie learning songs &  

learning to sing them with my lungs in  

resurrection from the sea coughing  

ascendant & obscene praying my father  

doesn’t die this week row row row your  

boat gently down the stream merrily

merrily merrily merrily life is but a  

dream

ix. 
a wheel it’s spokes but not it’s medicine  

an old friend says hello from distance if  

only i had ears to hear it ringing clearly  

through the universe on burning chariot  

on intergalactic hearse dogs on the leash  

of planet earth elements mixing in with  
the oxygen a blue moon rising up the  

interstate a calendar of how long mercy  

takes what is the word for nature’s  

scripture women & children taking  

pictures dressed in such elegant ribbons  

in sunday best as leaves descend on  

breezes gently weaving floating from the  

west i smell the stars i hear them  

glowing

 

x. 
i hear choirs barking i hear church bells ringing i  

hear shadows bending i hear morning is what  

comes after the night babies at south green bus  

stops poetic justice jackets pushers static on

nearly every frequency god of my animal divinity

express bus on the way to bradley i scan every

passing face to find no passenger six flowers &

i’ve lost every one the seventh seal is yet to come

the one i love still does not love me of all the

truths that i’ve learned to believe in like all the

dust that passes through collecting everything i

lose to bind in no particular order good morning

moon my father coughing by the water my lover

left me in the bardo strangers describing facebook

photos in this one they are inside the door & in

this one outside a laugh that echoes river

corridors a joke parents can tell in front of

children in this one sinners are forgiven & in this

one they’re not so much depends upon the god we

teach kids to believe in hello my friend the things

you need are within you they will try to sell you

fear & shiny objects to distract you & lead your

body to tall buildings to contract you so you can

buy a little nine to five reality an ad you saw on

television for some new medicine that teaches

corporate wisdom an electric pocket box for

digital miseducation a god to overcome my habits

you silly algorithmic rabbit you do not need to be

afraid we’ve got something you can take for that

just sit quiet & relax breathe in the lungs that you

still have first there is life & then what comes

after it of all the things you claimed to own &

who you claimed to be i hear a silence in the

streets i know it echoes if you listen we return

you to your previously scheduled reality already

in progress back to barking choirs back to breach

this one is born so ceremonial i know that it will

all be over soon so i am writing this one from

another life

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xi. 
a promise i made to my sister not to  

write anymore bullshit about time or  

elements or shapes or numbers not to  

think that i can understand things not to  

try to solve the answer to the riddle  

that’s been rolling round in circles in my  

head goddamn it there i go again i guess  

i have returned to shapes & forms i  

guess that i have been reborn but i am  

trying not to notice it i’m sorry britany i  

will call you & we can talk about  

existence knowing the odds are pretty  

slim & knowing how the story ends for  

me & for my friends & for everybody on  

the planet born to a culture that believes  

it’s kind of morbid to go mentioning our  

own impending deaths to feel warm  

breath against your neck & know it’s  

really coming someday whether your  

soul’s prepared or not this life is not a  

parking lot it is a bridge forever spans it  

stops & then it starts again it keeps a  

lighter in its purse & death is what gives  

living purpose a light that leads to what  

is glowing deep inside of us a promise i  

made to my sister no possessions no  

subdivisions in what time i have left  

rambling on & on again this is the song  

that never ends where air & birds are  

trying to lead you to the consciousness  

of trees a door that doesn’t have a key  

that opens slow into what’s coming after  

please know that this one sounds like  

laughter real life the stage & all its  

actors are sipping water sitting on the  

moon

xii. 
a desert that is coming for your city a  

dog that stands on both hind legs is  

sitting pretty & the fact that it’s a robot  

doesn’t seem to bother anyone who pets  

it before the war we all believed that the  

machines were here to help us 


a letter you start writing to your children  

about the world & why everything’s  

burning & when you get to the good part  

you can’t help but to laugh before the  

water wars people used to set their  

sprinklers in the grass 


depending on the time you have & how  

long you have it if you ask the question  

you will get the answer see men pouring  
water on the dust bankers & mercenaries  

breaking up the trusts holding tight to  

everyone you love if in fact this is the  

prewar before it started people were  

addicted to these things called cell  

phones smoking algorithmic outrage  

singing pseudo-religious love songs  

humans referring to their lives & bodies  

as a brand before everything got a little  

out of hand people begging to have their  

lives influenced corporations selling  

them prepackaged revolution & nobody  

noticed until the water started rising

xiii. 
we interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news  

we go now to our correspondent live & on location in  

the future


good morning chuck yes we are here at the corner of

franklin & maple where a hole has opened up into

what appears to be the intersection of space & time

witnesses say they think sagan may have been on to

something when he said we have the cosmos inside of

us & that he may have been describing a similar

phenomenon to tolstoy who said that the kingdom of

god is within you
 

sharon have you gone through the hole
 

yes chuck we did step into the hole which opened up

into this same intersection one hundred years in the

future


& what did you see there


well chuck everything looked the same only there were

drones patrolling the sky & there were no humans &

for the most part everything seemed to be under water


have humans gone extinct in this new future sharon


no chuck we were able to speak to a robot who was

scuttling around in the water splashing playfully at

another robot who told us that at some point humans

agreed to let billionaire tech developers implant chips

into their brains to connect them directly to the internet

& now humans spend all of their time locked inside

staring at a bright light fearful of shadows in what the

robot described as a “coma of advertisements”


& how does that differ from the present sharon

 

it doesn’t chuck

xiv. 
born just to be charity standing orders

born just to be born once i built a railroad born just

to be born again now it’s done born just to be  

born again fond but not in love 


please master tell me 
please master sell me 
please master sell me something
cheap

please master holy water for my body

please master lonely wandering through  

capital monopolies 
please master bathe me in heteronomy

please master what does the data say is wrong  

with me 
please master let me rest my head upon your  

belly 
please master place my face beneath the left  

breast mole 
please master hold me 
please master i hear time is always ending &  

if that’s true i’d rather end it where you are  

north of the grass & south of the stars the  

ringing nuclear alarm a warmth that flows out  

from your arms as existence gently collapses  

all around us no more water no more  

commerce starvation falling bombs &  

converts to the religion of the earth the circle  

medicine the cosmos the sound of birds  

ringing like proverbs 
please master tell me 
please master tell me what these animals are  

doing in my head 
please master nothing starts & nothing ever  

ends 
please master i was born just to be born again

please master let me in on the joke behind the  

dim unknown 
please master wrong forever on the throne

truth forever on the scaffold it wasn’t my idea  

so i won’t be bashful & when i finally  

understand the cosmic joke i’ll hear the angels  

laughter echoing the rafters sounding a little  

like a five-eyed alley cat does 
please master dogs that bark into the night

please master ask the advertisers to stop  

selling every body egos & lies like we even  

exist this reality is brought to you by coca  

cola 
please master any way the wind blows

please master turn out the lights the party’s  

over

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xv. 
i have two heads one is governed by the  

bomb & the other’s governed by the  

algorithms & neither one pretends to  

know the difference 


i have two heads one is governed by the  

spirit & the other one stays quiet so to  

hear it as it whispers to me gentle things  

as it tries to sell me wedding rings &  

plastic bassinets on credit holy be the  

god of the internet 


i have two heads one for father one for  

mother one for fire one for water one  

that hates me one that loves me i have  

two heads & only one of them is  

working but i haven’t learned to tell  

which one or why 


i have two heads one is green & one is  

red one is born & one is born again one  

goes on forever & one gets stopped up  

on depression i have two heads one for  

sadness one for pleasure one taken off  

for love & one taken off inside of nice  

churches one for chorus one for verses  
one machine & one is person one is  

grace & one is mercy 


i have two heads one to row the boat one  

to merrily down the stream one pretends  

that life is real & one knows it is just a  

dream

xvi. 
hidden world we are dreams casting  

light & shadow we are ones & we are  

zeroes we are bodies very briefly & then  

we’re not we are creation & it’s gods &  

children hidden world we write it down  

in allegory we call it life or purgatory we  

try to get where we are going pretending  

all along that we exist & that all of this  

is really happening prophecy of the  

algorithms set our bodies to the rhythm  

of the alternating hymnal we are liminal  

we are blue moons wet with water

xvii. 
a finger draws itself upon the river’s  

surface & the wake echoes out to the  

shore asking nicely for the morning  

asking money for dope & money for  
rope
& iridescent is the word they use  

for how light refracts oil in water &  

incandescent is the word they use for  

glowing with intense heat & i guess i  

don’t know what word they use for when  

people get sold wars by their military-

loving leaders & their billionaire presses  

but it seems to happen often enough to  

call it something hell in my lifetime  

already three or four (seven) & that’s  

just the ones they tell us about for a few  

weeks before getting bored with it &  

that’s depending on if you count the one  

they’re selling us right now all against  

all every single person i meet of any  

persuasion being fed a steady diet of  

outrage anger vague pronouncements of  

violences to come & i wonder what that  

will lead to first they sold bombs to the  

good newspaper readers on  
recommendation from wise sages &  

bureaucratic middle managers hello  

friends why don’t we drop a few tons on  

iraq afghanistan & send some drones to  

africa sell weapons to any bidder let’s  

see what happens then first you have the  

war against the terror & then they sell  

you war against your neighbors in every  

issue & edition that i can find so that  

should end well & lately everyone i ask  

admits they’ve been feeling angrier &  

more terrified staring vacantly at their  

telephones convinced somehow the  

world must be ending as though any of  

this is new seeing signs in every shadow  

wonder why that might be & i guess  

john was right about those neurotic  

psychotic pigheaded politicians so  

hallelujah go & ring the bell pretend that  

there are answers to the question pretend

that you really exist pretend the time is  

short now when really it is not & good  

luck with all those salesmen & their war  

machines

xviii. 
gaze in revival windblown carnival is  

come to town in the quiet if you listen it  

is loud & it is sharp enough to sever any  

tree limb like a father with a daughter on  

his knee counts the blackbirds one two  

three draws the circle soft & sweet cycle  

complete trying to make it proud of me  

& if i fail i know that they’ll have me  

committed water flowing iridescent  

close my eyes & meditate upon a love i  

loved in some other life the stars that  

found me in the night in suns valley  

played the music & they taught me to  

dance to it they said that nobody can  

plan for this so medicate me i am feeling  

spiritual the light that glimmers on the  

river hears it too it sounds like imitation  

furniture please take your seat upon the  

floor to hear the souls luminous chord  

the present tense & nothing more 

 

 

xix. 
soul battled sympathetic undilated pupils  

the first bite always tastes more lovely  

than the last good morning friend all of  

your ghosts are here & once again they’d  

like to bum some cigarettes they asked  

me where your lover went but me i  

didn’t have the heart to tell them so  

instead i read a list of every nerve  

contained within the human throat &  

showed them advertisements to keep  

them docile mercy my friend i have  

come to sell you some prescriptions you  

can take this one for fear you can take  

this for suspicion & paranoia take this  

one for a place at war in eighty nations a  

gentle sedative to combat night terrors  

this one helps you see politicians hiding  

behind two different names for one  

ordinary corporate flavor one says  

chocolate one says vanilla but they both  

taste like money & if you refuse to take  

it they’ll scream at you on television &  

the internet which elicits the desired  

effect take once every four years to feel  

you have a choice this one settles vision  

in some vacant middle distance for  

casual conversations with strangers &  

acquaintances subliminal & everlasting  

best if taken with the bread & some wine  

side effects include transcendence into  

light & when you die you have to live  

another life

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xx. 
amen if i am born again just like any  

other matter in this universe that leaves  

& then comes back snake in the rocks  

beside the tracks my soul is climbing up  

the mountain to where the air is growing  

thinner & from there i can see the city  

clamoring desperately at distance partial  

usually to the eucharist first passing &  

then dropping ordinance little of column  

a little of column b a little something for  

the bankers & their trillion dollar  

military as the people watch the play  

they stage every couple years billion  

dollar ad campaigns for fear to sell them  

on the lie that they can have some say in  

it to convince them none of this is really  

happening just some speed freak  

aberrations just waging war in seven  

nations eighty if you count the drones &  

bases please do not look behind the  

curtain you may not like what you will  

see how much does it cost to wage an  

endless war when you die god will ask  

you what you’re sorry for they claim  

that this has never happened before  

unless you count the many times it has i  

guess that won’t sell as many ads better  

to pretend this is exceptional better go &  

fetch your algorithmic hymnal where  

every prayer begins & ends with the  

amen

xxi. 
on a day when we still have water as the  

light moves across it i’m flowing  

refracted counting all the way to three 
 

on a day when i still have love i will fall  

to my knees to give thanks to my pusher  

& punisher a prayer for to worship her  

spoken for no audience 


on a day when we still have air if the  

breather resists me if my lover insists i  

will breathe it in deeply with what lungs  

i have left 


on a day that is followed by night i will  

drink from the cup that tastes similar to a  

river meeting the sea sound blends in  

with heat & runs over the street as sweet  

rain flows down into gutters as we are  

born from our mothers 


on a day when we still have fire enough  

for the warmth when sky comes to fill  

up my blood when they sing hallelujah  

my body’s a tree set the match up  

against me & turn my ashes to  
blackbirds

xxii. 
let me learn to lay my body down  

walking on november sidewalks asking  

passing cars & stray cats to describe for  

me existence over sirens & sewer grate  

mist my queen & all her nicotine  

believers car radios echoing the  

answer my mind is telling me no but my  

body is telling me yes & i am in the  

business of listening to the universe so i  

am signing off for scripture no saviors &  

no politicians warm bodies dancing  

softly to wet hymns with plastic bottles  

piling up beside the river dragonflies  

hovering above them a large bird  

ascendant in a leafless treetop with no  

one quite sure what to call it my father’s  

favorite alcoholics always knew when  

the time had come to take a hint as the  

boatman takes your hand & looks just  

like an old friend you knew once in a  

past life not for the first nor for the last  

time he asks if you have any last  

requests as it all comes to an end mind  

still says no body still says yes still there  

is still time for one more song there are  

three quarters in his palm one for the  

jukebox two to place over your eyes two  

windows open to the night hands rested  

calm upon the bar a melody you’ve  

heard before one you smell as it is  

glowing bright beneath the coming  

water turn out the light the party’s  

over so grab your coat hop in the boat  

rhythm gentle as it goes as the body  

disintegrates into its elements they say  

that all good things must end one last  

cigarette for love & all its malcontents  

for habits & what’s after them we stop &  

then we start again amen 

 


october – november 2020

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See more photos in the gallery below. Order a copy of algorithm hymns and find more poetry by brett a. maddux through Which Is Why Press.
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