Tag Archives: political poems

All Comfort Is Promised

All comfort is always promised
to the boy with the broken mouth
who himself was fractured in the street
by shadowy thugs in service to the rule
of order imposed in place of righteousness.

All comfort is always promised
to the girl coerced, the woman coerced, to those
cajoled and coaxed, captured and crushed
by some masked in privilege and others
who simply took what they wanted and left behind 
whatever they did not.

All comfort is always promised
to those displaced now housed
far from home, to those
who’ve made the best of it and those
who’ve made nothing from it,
all of whom nevertheless dream
the same homegoing dream every night.

All comfort is promised
in every book of every scripture
to every one of these oppressed and violated,
every one of those seeking refuge
from acts driven in some cases
by the double dealing tongues of those
who hold those same scriptures up
to ward off the guilt of having led us all here —

when willl it begin?  When will the night be 
safe, the coerced free to walk away,
the unhomed free to rehome themselves?
When will the last violation be redressed? 
When will promises be kept at last? 
When will 
all this promised comfort 
descend like a blanket
upon all who need it,

and when will we
have learned enough ourseves
not to question
anyone who in fact
truly needs it when they ask?


In A Shithole Country

words stay with you.

In your sleep you
can still hear them,
even though you
don’t believe them,
not really.

But then again,

it takes one to know one, or so
it is said and
according to him, 

in his country
the President’s
official house is
a dump and the neighbors
ship rapists and
drugs right over
the line to infest
the clean bathrooms of
the homeland — and

don’t forget: his own
shithole, back home
in his palace, is alleged
to be plated in gold,

is kept very, very clean.

in a bowl
just smells right, right?

in Norway,
no one’s getting up
to pack.

A shithole’s in
the eye of
the beholder, it seems,

and sometimes found
most easily

an ass. 


There’s a button
we are supposed to press right now
that doesn’t seem to be working.
I think we’re supposed
to hear something
and I don’t know about you
but I can’t hear a thing.
I expected a buzz or a click
or music.  A flashing light
or a change in temperature.
A door to swing open or 
one to shut tight. This is 
disconcerting. This has me
extremely worried.

Let’s try something. I will
mash down on this button
again and again
until it stays stuck
in the down position.

Now what
are we going to do? Tell me
if you can that there’s an operation
happening elsewhere beyond
the senses which is proceeding
as it’s supposed to despite 
the apparent failure of that
which is designed to initialize
a process or complete one
depending on when it is pushed.

I find it hard to imagine
that there’s something so broken
it cannot be revived. I’ll buy it
if you tell me otherwise
because otherwise we just wasted
a lot of time and energy 
banging on a button that no longer
moves when pressed
and if that’s the case 
I will no longer move
when pressed. I will
stay crushed down. I will
pretend I am operational.
I will not be anyone’s button
any more.  One of a field
of buttons. One button on
a panel full of useless buttons.
Another country not heard from.

An Open Letter To Blank

Dear Blank,

I’m starting this letter without knowing exactly who it is addressed to, figuring and hoping that your identity will become clear by the time I get to closure.  In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind me calling you “Blank,” do you?  

While in the past this may have been strange behavior, I feel that with the current pervasiveness of social media and the resultant increasingly public nature of formerly private communication, this feels like so much of what we see and hear today — a need to express oneself with little regard as to who the actual, tangible, physical audience for the letter will ultimately be.

So…without knowing who you are, Blank, let me get down to the business at hand.  I’m trying to parse out the nature of fear in 2018, and I feel like the only way to do it is through an intimate dialogue with someone as terrified as I am on both social and personal levels, because that is where fear lives for me these days.

I’m terrified for society, my unknown friend or friends; terrified because while I’m not naive enough to believe that the current national and world situations are new, or unprecedented, or even all that unexpected, I’m experienced enough to see as well that something evil has become commonplace enough in our dialogue that the overall level of it is rising as we focus on the greatest, most visible expressions of it.

For example, the current rise of Fascism world wide is stunning in its banality; as we think of the gaudy-greedy, gold-stained, over-eager hands of Trump meddling in, well, everything, we can’t help but focus on his taste and lack of finesse as the infrastructure of government thins dangerously beneath him and the judiciary becomes a imperialist rubber stamp.  It’s like a giant game of Jenga, with the players having no long term intention of trying to keep the structure upright at all.  

(I think the Big Guys are terrified themselves, of course.  Not for a moment do I think they are unaware of climate change and resource exhaustion as a looming apocalypse, whatever their public pronouncements. I think they are cashing out, taking what they can before the whole structure collapses…but that’s a story for another day…)

At the same time, I’m terrified on a personal level as a person with multiple chronic illnesses, a precarious income, and a support circle drawn largely from people much like me.  I’m terrified because if as we so often and so glibly say the personal is political, then I clearly have a vested interest in fighting back about what’s going on out there — except that my resources for doing so are fairly compromised at the moment in some ways by the stuff that’s going on out there.

I see my friends and family of color, my poor family and friends, my LGBTQ family and friends, my non-binary friends and family, my fellow artists…I see all of us being pressed these days in unprecedented ways, accelerated ways.  Ways not unlike those of the past, but aided and abetted and enhanced by the very ease with which every adversary from the government to their allied media to the private citizens who’ve become fellow travelers on the path of oppression may stick it to us on FB and Twitter, may compromise our very finances and privacy and identities with a little bit of work from the comfort and safety of their own anonymous homes.  

Part of how we got here is that we’re fed on falsehood from an early age these days.  We’re exposed to so much bad information, so much distortion, and so little practice in critical thinking that we often can’t tell Fascism from its opposite…but that’s beyond where I wanted to go with this, at least at the moment…because how we got here, dear Blank, is a long story, and I want to make this letter briefer than that. 

I want to say that right now, after history, after the past, we’re in a place of Fear that I think is indeed different than it was in past crises. I think we’re approaching a terminal moment that may last a few years, a decade or two, or a bit longer, but which will ultimately bring formerly unimaginable consequences to all.  And while it  may indeed lead to a collapse of capitalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, and all that as the most utopian among us believe, the world we inherit after will be unlike what we have now in terms of resources and infrastructure, and we will have such a long moment of suffering to follow as we rebuild.

Thing is, Blank, I won’t be here to see it.  I’m aging and somewhat unwell as I alluded to earlier; while I continue to do what I can to resist the worst of the depredations of the Fascists (after all, not everyone who sits anonymously at home, working in the darkness online, is one of their supporters), my reach is limited and specific.  My art and writing and music are tools and weapons as well, but I can only do so much. 

Blank, I thought at first I didn’t know who you were.  Halfway through, I thought I’d figured it out; I thought you might be my conscience and that this might be my guilt reaching out to you for my own purposes.

I was wrong.  

Blank, I still don’t know who you are, exactly.  I’m not even sure you’ve been born yet, if you can read English, or ever will.  But I know this: you will come along one day and you feel this same fear and know this discussion as if you’d written the letter yourself.  You and I will be in dialogue across space, possibly even across time.  Maybe you’ll be deep in the midst of the upheaval yet to come as I’ve pictured it.

All I want you to know is this:  you aren’t alone.  You’ve never been alone, as I am not.  We all do our parts and even if we never meet, somehow we must be comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone in the struggle.  We do what we can, we do what we must, and as long as we do what we can, even if “They” win in the largest sense, “They” will forever know that the victory will never be absolute as long as we can name and address and fight and sneer at the Fear that is their greatest weapon.

Don’t fear, Blank.  Not in the deep sense, not in the ultimate existential sense of ultimate despair.  Don’t give them the satisfaction of your fear.

Thanks for listening to this, however you do eventually hear it.  I have no doubt you will, and that you will understand. 

Love always,


December 2017

A year ago,
prayer for some,
drums for others,
glee in secret for some,
public fear
for others. 

Not so different today

as meanness walks the land
with a bared sword in a dirty hand.

Some words once whispered
are now shouted by those
raised up by fear and loathing
to seats of power.

Those opposed
barely know each other,
fight pessimism, share
sketchy rumors, grateful
for moments of agreement
while under suspicion
for our nods and smiles.

A year ago we didn’t know
how hard it would be to hope.
A year ago, we didn’t know
how vital it would be that we try,
how much it would cost us to try,

but a meanness
walks the land,

and we have no choice
but to try.

The Heir

— From a prompt by Jeff Stumpo.

in an anteroom the size of
a fairy tale palace

the prince of the moment
eldest son of the king

schemes in stage whispers
to burst out of the door

and tell a little white lie
the size of a gingerbread house

full up with cannibals
and unsuspecting victims

a fatal little story
about the trickle down effects

of shed blood
on dry skin

in hope that he will be
believed just long enough

to get his in the form of
a treasure the size of a dragon’s hoard

and all around
the people fall for it

and fail to notice how
he is as lizard-dry as any dragon

already and sweats not at all
neither water nor blood

as he lies and pontificates
and schemes and swindles

the way he learned to do it
from his father the king

whose wary, puffy eyes
are turned in suspicion upon his son

just as the son’s eyes are turned
upon his father with equal caution

though neither can see the other
through the greed that fills his view

while the world dies
before them in service to a hunger

the size of a mountain perched
on a larger mountain — 

two blind men defending
their precious darknesses

The Last Bottle

The last bottle,
once knocked over,
drained quickly.

When someone
set it right, there was 
less than a quarter remaining.

At that point
someone far less thirsty
than we were threw it away.

It drained its last 
into the trash bucket.
We were left wanting.

Any of us
would have taken that little bit
to tide us over.

Any one of us
would have shared it
with the others.

We died 
thinking of the one
who threw it away,

no doubt with the best
of intentions. No doubt
that they saw themselves

as virtuous, perhaps even
slightly messianic. 
No doubt in our fading moments

that had they even seen us
sitting there parched,
they would have pitied us.


the black cat 
is missing 

the neighborhood
snoop who would
let you pet him

anywhere anytime
as long as it was only
on his head

Been gone a month
now and we’ve seen
a silver fox and coyotes

around of late
City predators 
bolder than in the past

It seems to be
a predator’s moment
right now so

I’m not holding out 
much hope for Spooky
However hope is

one of those things where
a little goes a long way
and tomorrow is 

the shortest day
of the year so it can 
only get brighter

and even if Spooky
is gone for good
we can hope that 

somewhere he’s
fine and thriving 
even as we look out

into the city night
for unaccustomed 
predators at the door

as we do every day now
peering into every corner and under
every rock

into every office in city hall
and into every Church of
Fox and Coy-wolf Triumphant

We treat it like a prayer
to listen to the news
and cross our fingers 

for Spooky either
to come home

or find a new home


began years ago: the ground
in some sectors
is nothing but leveled
stumps. We
didn’t always know
they were
there until after they’d
left but
when we tracked sawdust
into our homes
and looked out into what
we’d once called
“forest,” we saw the white disks of
shining in the moonlight.
How were we
to build now that the stuff
of worship
and sustenance were gone?
We never took 
more than we needed and now
there would not be
enough. There would not be
enough and we
shivered and stared into
the barren night
until someone — one of the children
or an elder, it’s
still not clear — someone drew
a handful of seeds
from their pocket and gestured
that there was
room now we could fill anew,
and we fell down
and wept for the loss while
to sow for the gain.


A well-schooled 
experience of poisonous
double talk would suggest that
if one controls 
the language, one then
controls the thought.
Science-based, evidence-
based conclusion: if not true
then why do we believe in the 
rarity of diamonds? why 
advertising, sloganeering, 
marketing, speechwriting?
We are as vulnerable as
our ancestors, curled
into word-coated wombs of
belief as tightly as any fetus,
stuffing our entitlement
into spaces too small
for us to feel comfortable
holding our tongues for long.
Let them try to chain down
this diversity of song. Let them 
forbid “transgender” or any other:
we will spring out in a birth
of allowance, saying all the 
words at once: revolt, ignore,
engage, detach, disrupt,

Bad Air

It doesn’t feel as good as it used to
to breathe in this country.  

I used to fill myself with good air
in the mountains now and then

and head for the ocean on other days
to draw in as much as I could.

I’m so busy running now from morning
to morning, through mourning and grief

and rage, that my memory of the air
comes only when I stop, briefly, short

of breath.  I chop out little gusts of the past
and take in sick gulps of the moment.

I’ve got friends who will say: the mountains
are still there, and they will cure this, and others

who say there’s an ocean and a sky above it
not far away and you can suckle all you want

of the atmosphere there and you will be healed;
but when I go to the mountains or the ocean

it’s one long drag, one long inflation
before I fall back wailing.  This is

no clean world anymore.
I cannot escape into 

amnesia, somehow. I feel every razor,
every bullet.  Every burning tree, every

cloud of coal smoke or flame from 
a funeral pyre. I choke on how close

and how far it’s all come to settle in me.
The world in my lungs like glass

shards in the agonized air;
joy, shredded, bubbling

as it strangles
on blood.

Deep White Cold

Looking into 
deep white cold
as a man in shorts
walks, bent forward
at the waist, uphill
into wind’s mouth.

I’m staying in.

I’m not
that man, apparently
comfortable with
how the wind
is blowing. With
lack of heat, 
with danger of

Staring into 
deep white cold,
I will have to
go out into it

just as everyone

I’m in it even when
I’m snuggled down,
even when I sit back
and worry,
even when 
I pull
the blankets tighter.

Even this act — this
scribble of fear —

laying these threads of dark
in the middle of 
deep white. Trying
to convince myself I am
dark and hot, not
white and cold,

and deeper
than these lines
on the screen.

Patriarchy Apologizes

Dear Baby Baby,
I’m going to shut up now
after saying I’m sorry;

you must know I lament how
this world is all so very
violent. The sky is violent,
the sea is violent, I am
violent, ashamed of this,
don’t care who
knows it, but I am sorry
and that is peace, isn’t it?
I dare anyone to say it isn’t,

dear Honey Honey, dearest
Sugar Sugar. I am sorry
that when I close my empty hands
they become fists — what is man
except a tree of fists, swinging
like figs on his arms? I dare anyone
to say these fruit aren’t natural and
I’m sorry, sorry I grew this way, but

dear Sweetcheeks, Sweetcheeks,
dearly beloved Ladyfriend, most treasured
Helpmeet, I’m sorry, sorry
you’ve taken all I am the way you have.
Dear Bloom In My Garden, Loveflower
Of My Eye, I’m as natural
as you are, limited, constrained, 
a square of edge and mass in a round world
that contrasts and conflicts and isn’t that
what the good God intended, what
Nature and Nurture intended for us both?

Dearest, you flee me and I’m sorry 
but I’m angry and some words come hard
to the angry and when I call you “Dearest”
I’m sorry it comes out like a war cry but
I am forced to become the Violence I claim to see
in the world and when I call you “Beloved”
you are meant to come as you are and I’m sorry
if it’s not as you’d most desire but I am
sorry, Love, sorry you see me as such a 
disaster but I am at least a natural disaster —

when you say I can learn, Sweetness,
when you say I can change, Dearest,
I’m sorry but I don’t see how
or why.

The Palace, Burning

I came to the Palace.

One of the force
who run the Palace
stepped to me, asked me
to halt.

One of the lackeys 
who haunt the Palace
stepped to me, asked me
to dance.

One of the underlings
who manage the Palace
stepped to me, asked me
to cuddle.

One of the bureaucrats
who finance the Palace
stepped to me, asked me
to pay.

One of the royals
who decorate the Palace
stepped to me, asked me
my name.

The monarch
for whom they built the Palace
stepped to me, asked me
for a light,

then tossed the match into
the debris on the floor of the Palace,
stepped away from the instant blaze, asked me
to cheer as it burned.

I am in flames, as is the Palace, each of us
burning unremarked like a stick
being held in a campfire
by a child who doesn’t know 
the potential disasters hidden
under the red cherry of its flaming tip.

I am here, I cry out, I am here
and burning and the Palace 
roars in time with me as it burns;
no one’s coming, we look up
to the sky-God we’ve both believed in
to drown the heat and are left wanting.

In the flames I think I see the Palace
struggle to rise to its full height
from its knees.

Does this Palace truly labor to breathe,
as my hope and eyes labor to convince me,
or is that slothful thinking?
Is the Palace human at heart or 
merely a structure of human heart
that keeps moving 
merely to battle inertia
or in fact does it not move at all
and all the hope I have
for it rising from its ashes
is misplaced?

Someone who helped to build the Palace
steps to me and asks me
to stand aside
as it burns.

Someone whose land was taken for the Palace
steps to me and asks me 
to stand aside
as it burns.

Someone who was never allowed into the Palace
steps to me and asks me
to stand outside

and let it burn.

In the distance,
the Palace is burning.
Those of us
who burned with it once
but escaped
sit in the dark

and watch it go.

It was just a thing we built once
upon a time.

Let it burn.
Let us burn as well if we must.
We can always build another thing,

or our children can
if we find we can never stop

Rehearsals, Practices, And Dry Runs

I have ended my world
countless times in my head,

so often and so completely
that to walk into the sunshine
of a November day 
feels the same as crawling
through the heat of July: 

the former is the aftermath,
the world become a table
swept clean in anger;
the latter is a memory of 
a solo holocaust,
and of how I burned.

In my head I’ve ended my world
so many times in so many ways
that I can tell you how to use
any of fifteen easily acquired items
from kitchen or bath to bring about
your personal apocalypse
without even consulting a list.

It has become so normal,
I barely bother with being alive any more.

So when the world feels like it does today,
when it feels like I needn’t work hard
to end my world –when it feels like
all I have to do is speak out loud
of who I am and what I believe,

or just silently be myself
while someone in anger and fear

puts the gun or knife
or bomb or fire to me
for that alone — 

I see it as the next turn
in the game I’ve played
over and over for most of my life
and I can say that
whatever the way forward,
whether it leaves me dead or alive
I’ve been there before,

and I can work with it.