Proverbs of Hell

by John McDaid

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released July 28, 2019

Cover art by John Pierard


all rights reserved



John McDaid Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Award-winning science fiction writer, freelance journalist, folk/filk singer-songwriter.

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Track Name: Make An Effort
Make An Effort
(A fortune-cookie campfire song)

Well I started out at Enron
Where I traded gas and power
We were cornerin' the market
We were jacking up the prices
Had a really good accountant
And some special purpose entities
You gotta make an effort if you wanna get to big to fail

Well you gotta make an effort
If you wanna turn a profit
Well you gotta make an effort
If you wanna turn a profit
Well you gotta make an effort
If you wanna turn a profit
Well you gotta make an effort if you wanna turn a profit today

I was working down on Wall Street
When the market was flyin'
We were hedging our positions
We were pumping up the bubble
Learned to turn a risky mortgage
Into a security
You gotta make an effort if you wanna get too big to fail


I was campin' at Zuccotti
With the other Occupiers
I was sellin' lots of t-shirts
I was movin' bumper stickers
I was turning' the resistance
Into a commodity
You gotta make an effort if you wanna smash the state
(That's what the t-shirt said)


I was workin with the Russians
And some analysts from Cambridge
We were data mining Facebook
We were dominating Twitter
Turned a life of public service
Into a liability
You gotta make an effort if you wanna win elections today


Well I finally went to prison
For about an hour on a Sunday
I was visiting my cousin
He got busted for shoplifting
I had really tried to warn him
'Bout the risk of petty larceny
You gotta make an effort if you wanna turn a profit today
Track Name: Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz

Well he grew up at the keyboard
Reading newsgroups, learning code
Out on the Net where skill is freedom
And who you might be matters less than what you know
At fifteen he wrote the standard
To syndicate the web

Aaron Swartz
The internet's own boy
The internet's own boy
The internet's own boy

He helped build Creative Commons
Make court decisions free to read
He launched the movement
That brought the freedom-killing SOPA to its knees
His actions did not go unnoticed
By the DOJ and FBI


He wrote the Open Access Manifesto
Taught us to hack democracy
Founded Demand Progress
To organize online and in the streets
Battled surveillance and corruption
Stood with those who fought for change


He took on those who lock up information
Downloading journals at MIT
With a laptop in a closet
He tried to show that academic research should be free*
But they dragged him off in handcuffs
Threatened thirty years prison time


He was found in his apartment
Unrepentant to the last
Another bite of Turing's apple
Showing once again how justice serves the dead hand of the past
But he left us with the vision
Now its up to us to live the change


*As in speech, not necessarily as in beer
Track Name: Time To Face Facts
Time To Face Facts

The earth you walk is hollow,
and you're not convinced it's round
Six thousand years of history
Turtles all the way down
It's all in flux
Ex nihilo nihil fit to fiat lux
And now you wander through the Sephiroth
Gormless as the Page of Cups
You believe in Angels
And ancient astronauts
You've walked the plains of Nazca
And searched for Noah's Ark
You've journeyed East
And you know the stars control
Your destiny
Now you await reincarnation
Or perhaps
The Singularity
If you can't take the heat
It's because you're living in a house of wax
Get your head out of The Clouds
It's time to face facts

You've relieved your subluxations and done primal therapy
You've punctured your meridians and had psychic surgery
You're OT III. Released your body thetans and you're Clear
You made a pilgrimage to Virginia Beach and heard the sleeping prophet
Whisper in your ear.
You avoid GMOs, don't use cell phones,
Or risk tumors from WiFi
You eat like a Neanderthal
Cleanse and detoxify
You've done NLP
Armloads of copper bands adjust your chi
You swear by Ayurvedic scraping
And tiny drops of homeopathy
If you're still feeling sick
It's cuz you're looking for needles in all the wrong haystacks
Take off those pinhole glasses
It's time to face facts

Four acres of burning office can melt unprotected steel
Even Stanley Kubrick couldn't make the moon landings look that real
The Holocaust is fact
There was no false flag at the Sandy Hook attack
Apologies to Oliver Stone
But Oswald acted alone
And so did Jack
Chemtrails are condensation
Autism is unrelated to vaccines
There is no perpetual motion
Illuminati don't control your dreams
You may get your news from Fox
Sleep in an Orgone box
To keep the black helicopters away
Use that ten percent of your brain and do the math
Cold fusion would happen every day
If you can't see the truth, it's cuz you're looking at it in parallax
Take off your tin foil hat
It's time to face facts
Track Name: Heaven Underground
Heaven Underground

Heaven/is falling
The angels/lie on sidewalks in the rain.
The serpent/calling
Up from the lost world/buried deep within our brain.
And the saints have piled up in the streets
Their sacred blood staining the sheets
Their haloes and bones have been sold
Pried loose before the bodies were cold
And the Rainbow disappears with the dawn
And there's nothing left to carry us on
And there is no salvation to be found
Now that Heaven's underground.

Unending/as the chaos runs its course.
We grind on/pretending
Nothing/left us but remorse.
And the voices that speak in our dream
Offer comforts as cold as they seem
As faces fade off in the noise
And the lost take the Hand that destroys
And there are no stories left to tell
Now that Earth inhabits Hell

It's forever
and it's worse than it appears.
This brave new world
is just the sum of all your fears.
And each day
follows senseless on the last.
With no way
out of the demon haunted past...
(Spoken: "Dingir Pazuzu Qatu Dingir Ishtar")

The Heroes/are dead now
Their bodies/scattered ashes in the deep.
The Prophet/unread now
In the sound and the fury of reason's final sleep.
And all along the roads to the Dome
the dead appear to carry us home
and the angels have begun now to rise
their screaming held back in the skies
and the world is just the walls of a cave...
As we look up the sides of the grave...
And there is no salvation to be found
Now that Heaven's underground

Ahh oooh
Ahh oooh
Ahh oooh
Track Name: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Something Wicked This Way Comes

We been living in the sewers
We been sleeping in the fields
We been counting crows at midnight
In back alleys of the Wheel
All the time I see it coming
Like the rising of the Moon
Hairless apes obsessed with poison
Brutal engines spraying doom
Heat the air and raise the ocean
Call down torrents from the sky
Not a hand was raised in protest
As they watched the planet die
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes
Something wicked
This way comes

From before the dawn of reason
Risen from the thoughtless sea
Their furry forebears scrabbled mindless
Flake the rock and burn the tree
Dig the ore and smelt the metal
Pump the oil into its veins
Tease the spark to leap the gap
Leave mute nature to rot in chains
We've been hiding in the background
Crawling mindless through their dream
Hoping for some chance connection
Ground insensate by their scheme
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes
Something wicked
This way comes

Now we stand by fate connected
Hand to hand and heart to heart
As we watch them lurch toward doomsday
And the final battle starts
Call us Caliban or Grendel
The slow return of the repressed
Earth will find a path to balance
For her children dispossessed
Nature's had enough of humans
Now we ride with Doctor Ain
As we join the marching forest
To the hill of Dunsinane
By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes
Something wicked
This way comes
Track Name: Checkout Time At The Owl Creek Hotel
Check Out Time At The Owl Creek Hotel

For Vonda McIntyre

There are hotels
Along the border
Of the real and the realms beyond
We sometimes wake there
Standing before them
Reduced to pure

Some inhabit
Evanescent bubbles
Bulging from the plethyverse
Some lie in liminal
Where all that rises
Must converge

A burst of brightness
Buzzing blooming
Bellhops lead us through the portico
And transcendence
Sinks to transience
Another spin
'Round this bardo

Stars wheel above
In unfamiliar constellations
There are hints of palm trees and desert sky
Faces that you half remember
Welcome you back with a smile
And the desk clerk says your room is ready
And someone you think you ought to know
Whispers, “I will purge thy mortal grossness
So that thou shalt like an airy spirit go.”

We find ourselves
In such a moment
Dust, random walking in shafts of light
Angelic orders watch
In mute amazement
At the onrush
Of the night

There's bouzoukis
In the lobby
With tambourines and violins
In the stairwell
Guitars and banjos
Out by the pool
A theremin

Behind the front desk
Lurks an aleph
That can show all time and space
Corridors and rooms
Endlessly emerging
Far beyond this
Nutshell-bounded place


They're playing games
On the veranda
Feels like that time back at Black Diamond Bay
You can choose
Your own adventure
The one thing
That you can't do is stay

Musicians jam
Late in the evening
As the captain brings carafes of wine
Down in the ballroom
Sequins sparkle
Cheek to cheek
In three-quarter time

She catches your eye
From the dance floor
A wraith of implicate design
She is the zeitgeist
Of the building
One touch can heal
A troubled mind


Amid the circles
And room parties
And conversations in the bar
All the house staff
Relentless, unicursal
Gently prod us back
To where we are

A hundred billion children
Have dreamed the hotel
In an insubstantial pageant, as are we all
And the hotel
Returns the favor
For those who quicken
At its call

Vacuum energy
Free, free falling
We live between the drop and snap
We check in
For such a short time
Before the endless
Calls us back

And the desk clerk says your room is ready
And someone you think you ought to know
Whispers, “I will purge thy mortal grossness
So that thou shalt like an airy spirit go.”
Thou shalt like an airy spirit go
Like an airy spirit go
Airy spirit go
Track Name: Red Light Red
Red Light Red

Well, I'm rolling down the tunnel
I don't see nothing there but green
So I call up my controller
She's a friend I never seen
And I say, "Hey there pretty lady,
what's the situation up ahead?"
She says, "You better slow down
There ain't no way around
They're using backhoes
to clear out the dead."

Oh no, red light red
Oh no there's trouble up ahead
Oh no, red light red
Oh no there's trouble up ahead
there's trouble up ahead now
there's trouble up ahead now

Well I went to ask the Watchman
She looked just like Emily
I says, "What about mantra yoga
and quantum indeterminacy?"
She says, "Boy, don't you go fucking around with magic.
And don't go messing with the past.
'Cause you, if you ever find
A prayer to touch that mind,
You'd just better hope it kills you fast."

Well, there is a River out of Eden
And it runs down to the Sound.
And we lie here crushed and beaten
In a fruitless search for higher ground.
In the back I hear them crying,
"Is all lost, or can we win?"
We hang beset by doubt, ten miles out
way below the glide slope, headin in.

Oh no, red light red
Oh no, there's trouble up ahead.
Trouble up ahead now
Trouble up ahead now
Track Name: That's Trump
That’s Trump

He came down from heaven on a golden escalator
He's the voice of the people, he's a job creator
Got a secret plan for Isis that he'll -- tell you later
That's Trump

Well he came from New York City where his daddy got him goin'
With some nice apartment buildings and a million dollar loan
Now he treats the Oval Office like another thing to own
That's Trump

Got a chief strategist quoted praising Satan
And a basket of deplorables who spend their lives hatin'
You wanna see his tax returns, you're gonna do some waitin'
That's Trump

Well he's a little fuzzy on the Constitution
Got a taste for some early morning Twitter retribution
Has the alt-right itchin' for the final solution
That's Trump

Well he's got a reputation for stiffing his contractors
He likes to insult women, the press, and his detractors
And he don't take no lip from hammy Broadway actors
That's Trump

People of America
Democracy depends on you
If we all resist this madness
Together we might turn the tide

Well his financial entanglements are a little hairy
His efforts at diplomacy have all been pretty scary
Got a cabinet reminds me of Doctor Caligari
That's Trump

He's got buddies in the NRA whose one issue is shootin'
And climate change deniers who aim to keep pollutin'
But he's got a special fondness for his BFF named Putin
That's Trump

Well, he'd probably like to strangle him some folk singers
Who poke his fragile ego with their clever zingers
But I don't think he could do it with those tiny little fingers
That's Trump
Track Name: Punching Nazis
Punching Nazis

The skies are turning gray there’s a tempest on the way
We’re seeking shelter
The pundits on TV say it’s the price of being free
That’s helter skelter
I’m looking at upraised hands
And losers wearing black armbands
As children from foreign lands are dragged away

Firewalk with me cuz we’re taking to the streets
We’re punching Nazis
We’ve been here before and this time we know the score
We’re punching Nazis
Disregard the lies and just believe your eyes
We’re punching Nazis
We’ve had all we can take, Democracy’s at stake
We’re punching Nazis

The people feel abused and their anger has been used
By those in power
Standing on the stage, feeding back their rage
In bloody showers
We’re living inside the head
Of Breitbart’s walking dead
They expect us to ignore what is said and look away


We’ve been herded to the right and taught to fear the brilliant light
Of reason
Sold a false belief by the Twitterer-in-Chief
It’s highest treason
But we’re rising from the spell we broke
See the sleeping giant that awoke
Now we’re shouting back at the spokesman for the crime

Track Name: Time (Welcome To My Nightmare)
Time (Welcome To My Nightmare)

Time knows me well
Time matches my stride
Time ticks off every heart beat
Time waits beside
Every moment of danger
Each impending disaster
Time stands still in the crisis
Then time flies on faster

It's just an illusion
This sense of existence
Buoyed aloft from the quantum
Off in Heisenberg distance
It's pure self deception, this idea of being an
Agent with choice
When the bubbling particle chaos below us
Alone has a voice
And that voice says
To my nightmare

Time is evolution
Time is red, tooth and claw
Time wastes itself
Time rubs me raw
I lost all sense of time
Counting the lines on my face
While time marches me on
In its unswerving embrace

It's just an illusion
A trick of the mind
The hubris of a point
Surveying a line
In a space that's surrounded
By a darkness so deep
Our little life rounded
By unthinking sleep where we say
To my nightmare

Time rolls down its hill
Implacable and incremental
Time strips us of dignity, children, and friends
Time is unsentimental
Time patiently waits
To shuffle off this mortal flesh that we drag
Where every time we close our eyes is just
A dress rehearsal rag

It's just an illusion
Like Christ and cryonics
We're plasmids in amber
One of matter's harmonics
Time transeuntem
Et non revertentum
We all have the same dreams
No use asking who sent them
We just say
To my nightmare
Track Name: Nevermore

Down the street at midnight
Where the ocean rocks and rolls
Where the  mermaids sleep and the lawyers creep
And the bankers sell their souls
Now we slide through silent darkness
Out waiting for the light
As the world decays
While we search for ways
To make it through the night

Say nevermore
Say nevermore

We were waiting for the whistle
We were lying on the tracks
All the lies we’d seen
On the phosphor screen
Well they all came flooding back
Now we could wait for forever
In the horror and the cold
As we learn the feel
Of this deadly steel
And our rights already sold


It’s the evanescent future
Unfolding as we stand
In these empty streets
Trapped in self deceit
In a life we never planned
Can we ever catch the phoenix?
Can we find a heart to keep?
As the waves below
Wash the world we know
To the unimagined deep

Track Name: Love On The Moon
Love On The Moon

The world has no reason
The world has no mind
And we know that it all ends too soon
But when you lose all hope ya
End up in a dystopia
As barren as
Love on the Moon

So, paint your banners
And hold them up high
You know that you've only begun
As the earth's only creatures
That know we will die
We're searching for
Love in the Sun

We live in the shadows
We work in the dark
Out of the heat of the long afternoon
Like helpless babies we're crawlin
When fate comes callin
And we're fallin
In love on the Moon


There's a voice in the thunder
It calls your name
And no one is ever immune
To that sudden seizure
That will torque ya and squeeze ya
As it frees ya from
Love on the Moon

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