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It seems like I've been putting my thoughts and ideas into poems since I learned to write. I remember carrying a journal with me everywhere as a teenager so I could write any time the mood struck me. While my girl friends were swooning over the Beatles, I was reading Rod McKuen's Listen to the Warm and Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows and idolizing Yuri in Doctor Zhivago, whose poetry superseded the trials of cold and Communism. That scene where he begins writing his Lara poems in the ice house still haunts me.

I've never had my poetry published, but in 2003 I paired a collection of my poems with my mother's photography – called Mom’s Eyes, My Words. You can download a copy as a PDF file here.

Below are some of my more recent poems:
This is a poem I read when talking to groups about Voluntary Simplicity:

More or Less
by Jeeni Criscenzo

Give me more.
I want more!
Fill it up, and then some.
I can’t afford it,
nor can you,
but if we hoard it
no one else will get it,
So give me more!

It’s never enough,
when you just want stuff.
But I don’t care if millions starve,
and the future is impaired,
so long as I get MY share.
So just give me more!

Because bigger is better
I must Viagra-size my world.
My car and house are super-sized.
I need more bathrooms
than occupants,
because I have so much shit.
But I want more!

Fill up this endless emptiness,
with lots of junk
and food that’s fast
and white and free of nutrients,
leaving me always hungry
for more.

Wal-Mart shoppers beware
when you price compare,
the hidden costs
of conspicuous consumption
are enslaving and degrading you
for everything you think you own
continues to extract a price,
even when the shine is dulled
and your interest in it ended
it must be stored and insured
and of course, defended.

But for God’s sake, give me more!

Like crazed junkies we clamor
for the latest craze
we’ve been programmed to enamor.
Whoever dies with the most toys
is finally free from their excess,
we who possess the most
are the most possessed.

So maybe we should just
change our tune
to --
Give me less.


by Jeeni Criscenzo

I was thinking of giving the cat
a name.

I suppose it already has a name
that it likes just fine.
If I knew it,
I might be tempted to call it
one day when I needed a cat
that wasn’t needing me.

Maybe I should just trust
that, like you,
the cat knows too
when it’s needed.
And it doesn’t matter much
where either of you are
or what you do
in between.

It occurred to me today
that while I have no claim
on the cat
nor you,
you both come around
whenever it suits you
and tolerate the fact
that I care about you.

Cats don’t need names.
And while some languages
have many words for “friend”
as if some sort of hierarchy is necessary
to define the level of commitment,
I wonder why can’t we just let people
come and go in our lives,
like cats?

We would all get what we need,
with no strings
no obligations,
no expectations,
no rules,
no disappointment.

It would be such an odd
but elegant way
to fill the spaces
in our jigsaw puzzle lives.

I wrote the following poem after the massacre in Acteal in 1998. Because of my interest in the Maya, this paramilitary attack on innocent women and children really angered me and I needed a way to tell people about the atrocities happening just south of our border. This poem was circulated throughout the Internet:

Maya Death in Chiapas
by Jeeni Criscenzo

She prayed with the other women in the church,
in this makeshift place that is not home,
this place that offers nothing except a respite from terror,
from the thugs who have burned and raped and murdered
the thugs who waited and watched while the coffee plants grew,
watched the Maya farmers tend their delicate plants,
watched the coffee prices rise,
watched her belly grow round with child while she worked in the field.

She prayed with the barefoot mothers and children,
her man missing, like many others,
held at gunpoint to harvest his crop for thieves,
for the PRI-istas who loaded trucks with their plundered harvest,
the PRI-istas who have pillaged their future,
stolen the fruits of months of toil,
stolen their only hope for survival in the coming year,
stolen their strength to resist enslavement.

She prayed with the shivering refugees,
beseeching her ancestors and saints with prayer,
to protect those hiding in the forest who have taken up their cause,
to defeat a government who strategically arms their enemies,
those pariah who call no one mother and father,
those wild ones who have given their souls to the PRI,
forsaken their heritage for the awe a weapon wields,
forsaken their ancestors for the bandit’s life,
forsaken their community for the promises of thieves.

She prayed with her fellow Maya near Acteal, Chiapas,
three days before the celebration of Christmas,
while warm, well-fed children in far away places prayed for toys,
she turned to the deadly hack of fifty government issue AK-47s
aimed at a church full of unarmed people,
she turned from the hail of machine gun fire
set on a community of helpless victims,
she ran for the cover of bushes by the river,
ran from a barrage of bullets named “politics” and “greed”,
ran for the futile chance her unborn child would survive.

But she could not run faster than their bullets.

She laid on the ground with the other bodies.
Her blood-soaked huipil could not conceal
that her attacker was not satisfied to gun her down with forty-four other innocents.
Her eyes wide with death watched the vermin as he thrust his machete into her womb.
The last thought to move through her mind, a question:
“ What threat was this infant to your PRI?"

Jeeni Criscenzo: 4819 Pescadero Ave. San Diego, CA 92107 ~ 760-525-1915 ~