Tag Archives: political poems

Peace

Peace is a glimpse
of my partner
lying zig-zag and still
under our sheets, seen
in dim light as I rise
and tend to our insistent cats
at dawn,

reassuring me 
that once this is done
I can return to her side
and fall back to sleep
in as good a place as I can find
in this brightening,
frightening world. 

That there is still at least
one safe harbor 
is enough to let me
remain awake for now
and face the light
that comes now to reveal
what has lately come to power
during the night
from the dark.


Each Other

Thinking of
the current
ragtag state of
us:

our ramshackle bodies,
crude hovels staggered below
hillside mansions.

As always, our pains
are best explained
in our own idiolects,

so we try to listen
to each other,
to hold on to each other.

It’s not been easy,
this long approach to the 
Abyss. 

To bolster us
as we attempt to bridge it,
or prepare to fall, what we have

is memory, each other, 
attention, connection, 
each other once again;

shared anger, shared compassion;
hope and its near-companion,
each other.

It’s darker than we thought.
Our ramshackle bodies
whisper to each other

in our own tongues
and strive to understand.
Some do, some don’t,

some find it easier not to listen. Not
to even hear. So much shouting,
shooting, fire, gas,

gaslighting that illuminates
nothing but its source. 
Each other, we say. We

reach for each other.
All we have. Our ramshackle,
ransacked lives. 

Our connections. Our hope
that we will find each other
among slow-building piles of ruin.


The Straight Razor

This deep into my life
I have begun shaving with
a straight razor

not so much for the trendiness
of the act among
certain smug sectors of the hip population

but from a lust for sustainability
born from a desire to stop 
disposing of so much good steel

Also in the spirit of this
historical moment
I need solid proof

that with care
I can enter danger daily
and come out clean

As I do not believe
danger will play fair
in the streets 

it is good to know
I can take it on my chosen turf
in at least one small way

I wet my face and lather up
Set the edge against my skin
Draw it at the proper angle

through the white mask I’ve donned
Think of my grandfathers
as I take care upon the jawline and chin

If I nick myself I do not stop
If I see red I do not flinch
but finish and administer stinging care

until I see the face I want before me
Then comes maintenance of tools
and cleansing of sink and mirror

It is a ritual and as such
things must be done well
and precisely from start to finish

One more thing
A straight razor
fits well in a boot if need be

and once you know
what you are doing with one
that is a fine place to keep it


Three Broken Sonnets For A Broken Time (The Rowers)

1.
Sitting with elders, watching as they 
row softly toward the far shore, as they
relax into the final strokes
and glide into that last landing;

that’s been my life of late.
It comes to all of us, or should
come to all of us who last long enough
to see our elders fade from our reach.

Too many do not live to see this.
Too many never see a quiet passage.
Too many do not see the shore coming
from far away; too many reach it

violently, faster than they wanted,
faster than anyone wants.

2.
I’m not close to that shore myself
but I now and then catch a glimpse — 
a break in the clouds above the horizon,
a scent in the ocean I struggle against

that makes me think of shifting 
toward rest and letting go —
and then I shrug and put my back
into the oars again, 

sure that I’ll get there, of course,
as we all will but certain as well
of all the strain still ahead of me
before I can lay off the work and say

it’s time for me to relax, time to let the tide
pull me in to that far shore.

3.
These days it feels that we are all rowing,
harder than ever, toward a much rougher shore.
There are times I envy the elders
who are gliding to the light in some peace.

I sit and watch them go
and dream myself of such a passage.
I do not want to see the final days
we seem to be approaching — though I know

all finality is temporary, that beyond it
there is always a beginning, always
something to look for; hope is a survivor’s
oar, a sweet ache in a rower’s shoulder.

I sit by bedsides, watching elders fade from view.
I turn back to my own rowing. I weep, and then I hope.


Poem Or Trigger

I’ve done many things
already today

but what I cannot apparently
do today

is pull a poem.

Once I could do that
as easily as I could once
pull a trigger. 
It might not be good —

I have been admonished
more than once
for abruptness, for

doing it too fast,
for not taking time

to breathe or aim 
as I should —

but I could do it easily
and most of the time

strike where I aimed.

Today though.
Not today.

A poem is
beyond me — 

ah, but the trigger
is simpler and more
to the point and while
it has been a long time

even scared and unsure, 
even possibly at the risk
of making things worse,

I think I have no choice.

That’s how it always is
with a poem
as well.  Right down to the 
potential for 
death resulting, but

in the face
of such a day as this,
who am I not to do
what I can.


Thought Experiment

I am sorry, so sorry
that now we have come
to the point at which
the thought experiment 
in which one tries to decide
what they would have done
in the path of tyranny
has become so obviously
no longer theoretical.

I am sorry, so sorry
that we did not do 
what we should have done
when we somewhat knew,
almost were certain, had
a chance to keep us from
ever knowing the reality
of the thought experiment.

I am sorry, so sorry
that there are those
we failed and failed 
on the way
from the thought experiment
to the moment when
the thought became
a recognition and the recognition
became a horror and 
the horror became 
routine.


A Social Construct

“Race is
a social construct,”

he said,

and I jabbed him gently
in the face. My fist

was real. When 
real police
showed up waving
real guns and badges,
I indicated
that as whatever we all did next
in response
was a social construct —

whether or not I went
easily, whether or not
they took me down, whether
I lived or died or they lived
or died in the attempt — 

none of it was real
and all of it
could be easily ignored.

They did not ignore a thing.

Went to trial,
a social construct.
Was judged guilty,
a social construct.
Did small time
in a real jail.
Came out marked and
civically blighted,
a social construct.

Race is a social construct.
It works better for me
than for many. That’s

real. Money is 
a social construct
that works better some days
than others for me,
better overall for some folks,
much worse overall
for others. That’s 
real. 

What’s real 
is a social construct

unless it’s a mountain
or a desert or a robin
or a lion or the skin
you’re in, the hair you
grow or do not grow,
the strength of your pulse

and how quickly it stirs
at the sobbing of a child,
the sight of blood on a cracked street,
the jerk it makes as it slows and stops
in response to a bullet entering.

On the page, on the screen,
I’m a social construct
wishing this
was all I needed to be

to make real things,
to make things real.


Under The Red, White, And Blue

Lying awake, the night sky 
on your mind,
a violet shelf of trophies 
you will never quite grasp.

Working dark seams 
until they give up scant fuel;
playing hard games
until the least prize falls 
into your hands.

You say
hey, it’s a living.
You say that
as often as you can.

Lying awake under
a dream sky you thought was 
just beyond your fingertips.
They told you that
so many times
that more than once
you thought
you’d brushed against it
more than once.

It felt like either heaven
or cobwebs. Hard
to say at the time,

but now you know.

Lying there
under that sky
you can’t reach
that will never redden for dawn 
or turn white for full day
and the stars you longed for
are like needles in your eyes
and the deep blue looks like 
shrouds and you know
none of it 
was ever really for you.


Meathook

This ain’t no poem,
no protest song —

this is a meathook
with a long memory.

This is a bomb
with a meter. It explains

how things get done
with a ballistic microphone

and then runs
to fight another day

or gets caught and is choked to death
on its own verses

or vanishes in a hard flash
and a puff of voice.

This ain’t no poem
but a manual for locking

shackles tight as end rhyme,
ghazals full of righteous gallows.

This is not a protest song,
but melodic explosions

aimed at a target.
This meathook

has blood on it, 
has been whetted,

has been thirsty 
for a while now,

and recalls how it proclaimed
the roll of honor

the last time
it was trotted out

not just for
some academic show,

but in a renewal
of raw street joy.


Fluent In Disturbance

No need to speak softly.
I’m fluent in disturbance.
I witness your rough prayer.
I shall raise you up.

No need to offer yourself
alone. No need to backpedal
or hesitate. I’m opening
my war cage. Releasing

my deepest bombs long held within.
Too old to hang on to them
for a better moment. This is 
that time. There is no time but this.

Those conversant in all the languages
of strife and how to struggle must listen
to each other now, and speak as they must;
no silence from any corner.

Make the silencers afraid.
Drown them out and hold them down,
face down, mouths full of ash.
They are fearsome, I know.

But I will hold you up and away.
I will cry them down into their filth. 
I will join hands

with others in war song. 

We will be no longer soft.
No longer silent.
No more of what
they count on us to be.


Tamed

The President asserts my taming.

I was half tamed, maybe,
but that was yesterday.
Tonight I am the tamer.
This is tamer’s day.

The President asserts my taming.
I respond:
what makes you think me tamed?
A little prince said once
that to love is to tame.
I don’t smell love on you.
I don’t smell anything on you.
You’re no prince.

The President asserts my taming.
I respond:
meh, and eh, and fuck that.
I see how loosely
you hold on to fact.

I see how little you grasp
in those hands.
I hear how little of the world
you grasp.  How little you are.
If you think me tame now,
I feel how tenuous your grasp is.

The President asserts my taming.
I respond:

Prez, baby,
I want to tame your children.
Cut their hair,
cut their tongues,

take their names,
take their souls

in my arms to squeeze dry.

Been there, done that,
got the DNA test.

I’m more than the sum
of what you call tame.
Let’s see how they do.
Let’s see how you do.

Prez,
baby love,
sweet lips, 

orange sunshine,
when did your family get here again?
Mine were watching from a safe distance
when you got off the boat.
Sure as fuck your people
were tame then,
Prez.  Sure as fuck you were
cowards and hiders, cruel under
hoods, changing your names
and pretending you weren’t wild.

The President says
we have been tamed.

The President says
he’s not going to apologize

for America.

I don’t want him to apologize.

I want him tamed
as we have been tamed.

I want to tame him hard.
Tame him so hard
he forgets

who he is.

Afterward we can ask him
who needs to apologize,
see what he says,
if anything.

See what his kids say then,
if they even know.


Professional Killers

If you were a professional killer
do you think you’d imagine days without killing?
Vacations where you wouldn’t shed blood,
holidays where the poisons would stay
locked away in the customary cabinet?
Refusals to sharpen the kitchen knives
because hey, you thought this was your day off?

Because you are not a professional killer
I bet you think they think about killing
all the time.  I bet you think they think
about the wash of blood into the street
after a hit, how neck skin feels taut
under their hands.  I bet you think
it’s a different universe from that side
of the equation. Then I bet you shake off
all the thought of aberrant killing

and vote for President,
or grumble at the thought of protests
against cops who, after all, are just 
doing their jobs, who lock up their guns
when they get home,
who bounce their innocent kids

on their aching laborer’s knees. 


The End of Dominion

One thousand years from today
there will still be equinoxes and
ocean currents. Most mountains 
will look identical from a distance —

perhaps less snow on the peaks,
perhaps glaciers will still be gone,
but the jagged horizon will be the same
and that which is highest will still be highest.

Certainly, there will be beaches. They will look
like beaches we know, although they’ll be
in different places and it may not be pleasant
to stare too deeply into what makes up the sand.

Trees, yes; flowers, yes.  Creeper bushes
and stinging nettles, yes; creeping insects
and stinging beetles, yes.  Some being will leap
from the ocean near shore. It may no longer

bear any name we’ve given it. Language
may or may not last, even if people do.
If people have survived, they will have changed.
Instead of naming what they see,

they will instead have listened
and learned what other beings
call themselves. To survive,
they will have had to learn that.


Vapid

They took everything that was already white
and compressed it into a small cake.
Utterly slick, ultimately waxy,
as small as an ironic footnote. 

Laid that bit into a chamber,
set it on flameless fire as if
they didn’t care about it, raised it
from its crushed state into the clouds, huffed it, 

blew it out into the thickest shade
of pure chalk imaginable,
then stood behind it in deep admiration
and masturbated

over their skills
at being so unlike
the entire everything
that birthed them.

And oh, the beards they grew,
and oh, the monstrous foods they devoured;
the long nights of staring into the eyes
of the disposable past

with sucking love
and hot detachment.
Leafing through the edges
for paths to the dead center;

admirable little men in their circles —
circles that nonetheless
are still just men masturbating
behind vast, thick clouds of white.


Bombs

A fire in our house,
nothing to douse it with,
no safe elsewhere to run to.

If I break a window,
outside’s there’s burning too.
No rescue, no escape.

I’m a bomb staring into flames,
preparing to burn
and if possible,

explode, level,
and extinguish this blaze.
It may be all we have.

Looking around 
for fellow bombs. 
It’s grim,

smoky, hot, hard
to see each other,
but when we do

we nod. We know
more or less what 
we are capable of.

We join hands
to make shorter work
of it, hurry it along.