Tag Archives: political poems

Purple

browbeaten
people glad
to hand off
judgment to
others and
curl up under
them. sad little
mouth open
no head game
people with all
the time 
they’ve robbed
from the rest of
the planet. as it sinks
they’ll be seeking
hot dogs and
blast shields and
not in that order.
stoked to be
alone in charge of
wastelands with
the right flag flying
above. with a song
in their sores. with a
skip in their amputee
step. with a thought
and a prayer for
the descent into
finality as long as
jesus is with them
and there aren’t any
of those others
invited. wish there
were enough hours
in a time machine
to have done this
years ago. wish we were
in dixie, indebted
to the song of the
old south and the new
rest of the directions.
wish for a heavy stone
to cover all when it’s done
smoking in its crater.
wish for rain to clean it,
lightning to split it,
thunder to keep it 
awake till something better
takes its place. 


Podded

Oh, sure, it’s
a puddle, 

this place:

this watery little hole
in the mud called
my town, built at
a river’s headwaters
with a secret canal
rolling south from here;

sweet puddle
teeming with invisible life —
invisible to those 
who won’t look — 
to those who see nothing
but mud here; 

notice to people 
who want to stomp it dry
or pave it
or make it into a 
golf-course pond
or a scenic beach:

do that and
the old water,
the original water, 
will go

underground, sit there

in the dark, waiting.
Do that and we go
dormant till you forget
about us

podded and safe in the dust
on your shoes,

waiting. 


Self-Care

Not summer yet
not for another month
yet too hot already for

all the pets
panting in the house so 
I replace their water constantly
and add ice to their bowls
and now and then check on
the new kitten for her tolerance
to this high temperature

She seems fine
so all I need is to watch her
and join her play and try to avoid
her minuscule claws and teeth 
as she learns her limits
as I have learned mine 

The other animals around me
have learned theirs more or less
with the big kitty sprawled near a window
and the ferrets in their cage sound asleep

As for my limits
I’m staring into a famous suicide 
while thinking of slow-motion genocide
and a billionaire imploding dangerously
from the weight of his wealth and utter Whiteness
and his ego and his sleep-starved outbursts

none of which trouble the kitten
or the cat or the ferrets
at all 
for them it’s all about the heat
and me being simply present at the right time

while I’ve got to sit here worrying
that I am not fighting hard enough
in the slow roll of this clumsy war
by writing and raging and staring
into famous suicide

that feels like a possibility except

the kitten wants to play and 
who am I to say no
to such a hopeful thing
as her face staring up at me
while she waits for the future


The Service

Putting out trash for pickup;
as much of a ritual
as anything
from my churched days.

More so, in fact.
I was never as devout then 
as I am now with careful separation
of recyclables, compostables; with
the regular observance of
timed placement of offerings
at the curb. 

It is a measure of 
the times we are in 
that this mundanity
feels like a bulwark 
against apocalypse.
In this is the hope

that I am doing something,
that this will matter beyond
not having the house smell
of whatever’s in the single bag
and half-crate of plastic and paper
I put out there. Our remnants, our losses,
our surrendered bits and pieces
given up to an effort
to green the world; they
look a little like a future 
if you squint.

When I am back inside
and see the news, 

I tell myself
that might have to hold me
till next week.  


Poppies

In my neighbor’s yard,
red poppies.

Scrape a bagel, they say, and you
can grow some flowers.

On the next table over in the cafe,
bagels dotted with black.

Eat a bagel, they say, and you may
fail a test for opioids.

You can’t escape
the prevalence 

of such things.
My little hometown

has both a bagel place and
overdoses. They sell

cream cheese and Narcan
in the strip mall. 

In Afghanistan, 
there are fields of poppies.

In the US,
there are fields of dead

killed around and by
the poppies.

Read the fine print.
You’ll see

I’m right. Policy 
and breakfast and 

poppies, lovely
and filling and deadly,

side by side to greet us
in the morning light. We need

so many drugs
to get through to the next day.


Horror Song

I have lately dreamed the words
“stuck pig”
so often they’ve turned
into music
I cannot stop humming
asleep or awake

Accompanied by
triangle or tympani
and now
and then
the sound of stones
rolling down a hill
into a river from
their former spots
in a castle wall

If this is a metaphor
what does it mean 
that on a recent night
I received
the second verse
in a new dream
of fields and flowers

and the words were

“bleeding out
means
the meat will be 
sweeter”


About Them

Who are they,
the ones you call “them?”
It’s hard to explain, other than

they decide, not you — unless
you find yourself on the side
of consensus. 

Some jump back and forth,
into and out of it. Some join
and never look back,

some are born there, some
look up one day and find
somehow they have become “them.”

How immense they are
depends on how small you feel
yourself to be.

If there is a
visible horizon before you,
they are the vanishing point.

Your descriptions of them
have a plasticity of form,
though rarely of intent.

Their mouths
are bound over
to the service of ghosts.

In their hair the ashes 
of torches, pyres, stakes
in piles of pitch-soaked wood.

They may choose to soothe
if you agree, snip and snide
if you are mildly out of line,

rap knuckles and slap down
if you are more recalcitrant,
beat and slay if they see the need,

or so they want you
to believe. They are
avatars of what

you are supposed
to believe and the forms
must be preserved

or else there’s nothing
to be preserved and
things fall apart and

even if that is something
to be desired
it does not happen

without pain and
the circle remains
unbroken as long as 

they hold you close;
as long as you let them
hold you. 


Resistance Poem

It is not that the ocean
itself is evil: far from it.
The ocean out there

makes us here on shore
what we are; indeed
there would be

no shore without it,
but now and then
great storms rise and

send death tides,
death waves,
death.

To disrupt
such deadly waves
coming ashore we must

wade out,
become stone, 
stand still

before it, understanding
that we cannot
stand forever

but while
we do, we
break it

at least a little,
more if we
go in numbers,

more still
if we do not try
to block it

completely
but instead seek
ways to divide

its energy, 
to cause it to dis-integrate
in that narrowest

sense of the word.
It will seem
impossible

because in
any permanent sense
it is, waves

of Evil
will come again
to our shores

as the very nature
of such Evil
is that

it works
through waves, it works
through repetition

and wearing down,
through broad strikes
across wide beaches

and deep harbors, 
it sweeps and swamps
and erodes and 

those who stand
against it must
always stand against it,

for life, for all
the time we have,
and also must teach

the ones who come after
how necessary is
the stand, the breaking

of those waves, the willingness
to break ourselves as a way 
to hold the shore in safety.


Rocks In The Rain

Rocks falling
in the rain:

wounding pebbles
ticking into me,
killing boulders
looming not far behind.

Reading the news

feels like that most days,
like the air itself
is getting harder
and more dangerous.

There are those who say
we should all get inside
and stay out of this
if  we know it’s going
to kill us. For me at least,

I think not.
I think

if I’m going to die
of something
let it be from 
such steady stoning
as long as

I’m trying to stop it
from happening
to anyone else

in such a mean time
as this.


Plain/Ornate

To begin
make a study
of plain and ornate
Of how the former
becomes the latter
and of how the former
houses the clean
and the latter
invites the filth

Then
see how his words
emerge from his gut
how his face
shifts in their rhythm
how he begins
to turn from one lie to another
how he ends
all thought at the utterance of each

See his ornate fumble
through language
filthy with syllables
and grime
See his disdain
of plain

Once
there was a child here
and a parent and
perhaps a lover
but plain speaking 
says no more
This is no more

In rococo twists
of tongue and style
something wicked now hides
in less than plain sight
just as the crannies of
gilded rooms with
their deep carved cornices
and intricate curls of decor
may conceal 
long-dormant plagues

Listen long enough
and become
infected
Look long enough
and become
desperate
Sit with it long enough
and become
resigned or
enraged enough
to tear this
all the way back

to plain


What It Will Take

1.

Not words, as they know what to do with those: no listening, no answers, no acknowledgment that anything of value has been said; when you own the definitions you do with words whatever you want and they’ve spent culture and treasure on gobbling them up.

Not marches as they simply set a frame around them, a proscenium, a monumental arch; they’ll call them theater, showpieces, paid spectacles of acting out; in extraordinary cases they will call them war and blow them down as soon as they look like they might catch on.

Not votes as they see every last one as an impending joke with the punchlines in waiting years away in the desert of the future where they’re already been paid for on the installment plan.

It won’t take words or marches or votes. It won’t take shame or mockery or public scrutiny.

2.

It will take pain.

A willingness
to bring pain that they have never felt,
an ability
to offer and then provide pain,
mercy
to pull back once an aim is achieved.

3.

Afterwards
we can wash up and then
lie awake and imagine ourselves
pure again, 
sweet as Spring,
generous and forgiving as
any river ever

that broke its banks
when overfull, raging
with the runoff from
a winter’s worth
of cruel snow

and then returned
to its bed to roll on,
steady and calm
in its knowledge
of its power,
to the peace of the sea.


Our Own Light

When they take us
in the night, when they
slip into our beds with us
and rob us of our right
to our desires, when
they carve our beings
from us and leave us
as husks, as remains,

we will have to be our own light.

When they sniff at the sick
and smell what they call
justified pain, when they
seize our bodies to pay the debt
for their own satisfaction, 
when they buy bullets with 
what could have bought 
our own healthy returns to 
our own healthy lives,

we will have to be our own light.

When they come in killer walls
of camo and blue to take our water
and foul it for the joy of cash heaps,
when they step in grand cadence
to darken our streets with metal and fear
while we cower in homes they long to burn,
when they raze the schools overseas with bombs
and raze the schools in our towns with illogic and lies,
then drag our children from everywhere
into prison,
into servitude,
into battle,
into death,
into worldwide shadow,

we will have to be our own light.

We will have to remember
who we are,
what we can do, 
who we refuse to become,
what we refuse to do.

We will have to be
in their eyes
ungovernable,
will have to be our own light,

illuminating each other’s way, even
if need be learning to start
fires, with 
each torch igniting another
until their darkness either
fails before us
or is left behind
for all time.


Bloodroot

Tragedy
from my lineage;
recovery
from there too.

What made me
deflated me.
What made me
blew me back up.

I awake in a room
built of frowns and guilt
where I still lay myself down
to sleep and heal.

It damned me,
or rather, it taught me
to damn myself.
It also taught me

how to fight
with and for
the tooth and nail
I was born with. So

when you tell me
it shouldn’t matter
as if your lineage
doesn’t matter to you,

you who wants so badly
for me to hand you
the prettiest parts of mine
to dress up your own

while pressing me to be
a little more like you
in order to wash all I am 
into a great lukewarm bath

of beige you call
civility, society,
normal — when you tell me
that

I look back at
what made me
the mess I am,
the bite and blow

of day to day,
and then I look 
at you. Your lineage
betrays you

even as mine,
for all its stabby 
hold on me, stays faithful.
Stands behind me.

Tragedy is my bloodroot.
Recovery is too.
You cannot hurt me more
than I have hurt myself

in trying to heal myself.
In my poison is my safety.
In your eyes I see
no understanding

of how that can be.
Someone in your lineage
may have known that once
but you have forgotten.

That is how I win.


Speaking Of Horror

Speaking of horror
there’s a
huge Dodge truck
parked at the donut shop
I’m about to go into
and it’s flying both
an American flag and 
a Confederate flag
each one the size of
a comforter or 
opened body bag and
it’s Spring

Speaking of 
horror that is as
a way of saying
something moving
in the dispassionate moment
of how matter of factly
those flags fly together

Speaking of horror
my body is hollering
stay out of there

Horror is how easily I lose
my usual donut appetite

In fact I don’t even
want a coffee

I know I could likely walk in 
with impunity
and buy my usual
with impunity
and recognize the person
who owns that truck 
and stare at them
with impunity in fact
they might nod to me if
we passed through the glass doors
at the same time in 
opposite directions

I don’t want to park
where horror lives
so I drive around the block to 
another donut shop

but it’s Spring and
in keeping with Spring
and speaking of horror

I really have lost all desire
for the usual


Surviving

I’m supposed to be
among these massacre bones:
that’s where I was born,
after all, nestled
in a bleached nest of 
what was once alive, and though
I got up and moved on,
I was not whole.  Part of me
stayed back, remained
with these dead
who’d unwittingly cradled me
and lent me a certain air
of loss that I can always feel
even if others cannot tell. 
I measure every day
against that sense. Sometimes
it surges within
and I can’t take a breath
without the scent of old bones
filling me, choking me.  Other times
I can get by with only a whiff
or two here and there.  Either way
those dead held me when young
and still hold
all the essence I grew from:
the knowledge that I live always
among those who, if they’d seen me
in another day, would have laid
a sword against my infant neck,
a rifle’s barrel against my child’s skull,
and not held back.  I live 
always knowing how little it takes
to unleash that urge,
how easily they could send me
back into that massacre pile
if given permission and 
a flimsy rationale. Every day
I do not run screaming
to lock myself away
is a marvel; understand as well
that every day I convince myself
from dawn to dark
that you only look like them
and are not like them
is a miracle — not one 
of trust, but of magical thinking
and provisional hope. I make
no apology for that. You should
expect none. You
should do more
than wring your hands
when there are 
so many of these bones
still to be laid to rest.