Daily Archives: December 18, 2014

The Next Country

Originally posted on 4/29/2013;  original title, “The Unimagined Country.”

next country,

country where we let our own blood
into the garden soil to feed it,

where we sing in our own tongues in the front yards
and kneel silently in the back yards

under the open sky, seeking
guidance or a little rain;

country yet to be founded,
already rich and storied,

abandoned, rediscovered,
abandoned and found again and again;

country, not nation, not state;
country, not homeland, not seat of empire.

Country yet to be ours, country
ours to define — country

for us to defend against the poisons
of borders, flags, anthems, suspicions.

When we come to that country
we’ll look into each other’s eyes

and we’ll know what to name it 
without a single politician’s speech.

We’ll know how to run it
without a single task force.

We’ll know how to love it
without a single weapon.

We’ll know we’ve truly settled there
when we look into each other’s eyes

and see a neighbor, a cousin,
or a self, no matter what else we see.


Originally posted 7/3/2006.

We don’t recognize the tall old man
who asks if he can be on the list.
After he signs up at number four,
he sits in the far corner, alone,
speaking to no one.

When his turn comes he announces
that the poem 
he’ll be reading
is a gift from the ancient ones
unveiling the dangers of the coming

He begins in German
and if he could speak German
at anything more than a freshman level
we might find less menace to his voice.

We catch snips of words
and phrases, some in English:

holy war,

We shift in our seats
when he reaches
under his shirt. Nothing is forthcoming
but no one 

His voice rises to a near shout,
with English:
“man cannot destroy
the earth, for he is of the earth.”
When he is done we applaud, as always — 

looking around to see
who else is applauding,
who sees us applauding,
who is sitting unmoved
and unmoving.

This room full of smart people is terrified by — what?
A stranger reading a bad poem in halting German
and disreputable English?  The potential for d
eath by a stereotype
of mental illness or fanaticism?  The invasion
of our comfortable bubble? A secret thrill
of guilty agreement?  Or is it how
his elementary cadence just 
over art
straight out of history and into
our best knowledge of how evil
is supposed to sound?