Tag Archives: political poems

Dragged Along

It feels, always,
like inside me
there’s a documentary 

about vanilla
playing on repeat: sometimes
it’s at full volume;

at other times
it’s barely audible
under my head chatter;

but it’s always on. There’s
a episode where
a man in a monocle 

purchases an escalator
that no one else gets to ride.
There’s the one with

a princess who gestures
from the top for me to come to her,
but I never get there.

There is that one where
I see myself riding a unicycle
up a long hill.

I’m sure
I have never ridden one before
but somehow in this film

I’m straining and
making slow progress.
I begin to wonder 
when 

this was filmed, is it the reason
I’m such pain here and now?
A spokesman comes on,

a voice over extolling
the wonders of vanilla.
A documentary voice

that makes a compelling
case for the dry factual,
the obviously correct

flavor of vanilla. It doesn’t matter
how hard I drive the sticks
into my ears, how much I bleed,

how hard I squeeze the throat
of the man with the monocle
or cry out my rejection

of the princess; my skin
is caught in the escalator.
I am bleeding;

dragged along, the scent of
vanilla deep in my nostrils,
voiceover yelling my name.


The Summer Squash Promise

Too done yesterday with the state of things
not to put my better time into
trying to forget it all today.

I’ve got peppers to tend
and tomatoes to stake.
Might be a summer squash or two

to see, and from that look I might predict
when ripeness might take hold.
I’ll plan, or maybe daydream,

that first meal with them:
perhaps stir fried in a thick bath
of butter and garlic, tossed loose

and hot onto a plate with 
whatever’s easy
and quick that day.

The summer squash
so long anticipated will be the highlight
and whatever else the meal offers

will scarcely matter
on that night
when the news will undoubtedly be

worse or at least no better 
than today’s news. But
the summer squash will be 

better than that. Better than
the end of the world,
if it hasn’t already come and gone by then.


A Social Construct

Originally posted 6-19-2018.  Revised.

“Race doesn’t exist,
you know.
It’s just
a social construct,”

he said.

I jabbed him gently
in the face
with my real fist.

When 
real men
showed up waving
real guns
and real badges, 

I indicated
that whatever
we all did next

in response
was in fact 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 — 

none of it was real
and all of it
should be easily ignored,

but for some reason
they did not ignore a thing.

Was arrested, a social construct.
Made bail, a social construct.
Went to trial, 
a social construct.
Pled out, a social construct.

Got probation, a social construct.
Came out marked
and
civically blighted,

a social construct.

Race is
a social construct

that 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 or
the jerk it makes
as it slows and stops
in response to a bullet
entering your body.

How quickly it stirs
at the screaming 
of a child not your own, or at
the sight of
someone else’s blood
on a cracked street?

That’s a social construct.

On page or screen
I’m a social construct.

I wish sophistry
wasn’t so damn real.


Their House

After the murders and fires
had cleared the land,
I was strenuously invited
by the arsonists and killers
to enter
Their House
and stay.

I looked in through
the back door —
the only one open to me —

at stains,
smoke-sullied windows,
a clutter of weapons
and waste,

then turned back toward 
the ruins of the countryside
where green and gold
were preparing to run riot
after timid beginnings.

From inside they called after me
with hope and threats
as I walked
a good distance from 
Their House
and began to tend 
to wounded land
and water, doing

what I could do,
knowing what was to come
would likely take me
but would still be better than 
how I would die
in Their House.


That Revolutionary Style

Love those social media posts
with the guillotines and shiny blades
With the red and the brown and the clever names

You’ve got that Revolutionary Style

Never touch a gun, never touch a knife
Wave a little banner, paint a little sign
Locked to a front door while they open the back

You’ve got that Revolutionary Style

Gotta dig that T shirt, gotta like your scarf
Gotta get me a whole bunch of stuff like that
Gotta get the right look for the march or the war

Gotta get that Revolutionary Style

Call it out lock him up lock him up lock him up
lock him up lock him up LOCK HIM UP
Incarceration is a crime but there are exceptions

when you’ve got that Revolutionary Style

In the haze of a burning planet
In the haze of a burning city
In the haze of the thickened gunsmoke
over bodies not yet cold
In the cries of the people seeking relief
In the steam of the oceans filling with heat
In the fear of the white fog filling the streets
where the future is bought and sold
In the moments before it all falls down
In the hours before you can’t and won’t
It’s a mystery to me how good you look
as you swing for the whirlwind cross

You’ve got that Revolutionary Style
and there’s gotta be a meme for that


Skin Or Flag

We depend upon
a fog of hope 
to keep us from 
having to admit

that we are tied to harm
with each step we take
and our march
to a better world
will kill someone
regardless of our intent

as the nature
of our privilege
is to keep us
from understanding
what level of poison
is required to maintain
all this glory
for our benefit;

even if we 
go to the right meetings,
the right parades
and protests; even if we
talk and walk
the proper talk and walk;

even if we are 
good and pure and
say our prayers at night,

the simple facts of
skin and flag
can shift us
from caring human to
unwitting monster
whether we walk
in dark or light.


One Thousand Cuts

if we find
after the last act
that in the end
all it would have taken
was one thousand people
with tiny scalpels
crowding in and each
slightly nicking that Demon
till it finally
fell weakly down
we will die wondering
why we did not
issue a blade
to anyone who
could get close enough

if we realize too late
just before the last stroke
of the closing bell
that one full shout
from a million throats
could have blown the prison doors off
and rendered the cells
obsolete
we will wail in the afterdust
wondering why did we not
encourage folks
to gather and scream
bloody triumph
into the faces of our jailers

if as we die we recognize
that all it would have taken
to win
was to fight as dirty as they did

if we become extinct
because we were not willing
to pay it forward with small crimes
against the flesh of the big criminals

we will perish
having deserved

what we are getting
right now


How To Pronounce The Name

In the mornings, disciples argue
about the right way to pronounce the One Name.
Some stand strong upon there being no Name

for what doesn’t exist, so why discuss it 
at all? They bicker and now and then
come to blows and bitter silence.

These many descriptions of God,
even the ones that deny a God at all,
all feel like wounds left untreated.

The flies buzz around the possible names.
Sometimes they sound like threats.
Sometimes they sound like laughter

and the scent floating in the air above them
is like flowers stacked on a grave
not entirely filled with earth.

A strong breeze brings healing
blowing in from all directions at once.
When the air clears behind it

there’s nothing to hear, nothing
to sense at all. The disciples begin to dance
to what they think is the drumbeat

of the True Name being spoken at last
but it’s only the wind stretching the grass,
bending the trees, shifting the ocean onto shore.


Making Fists

If you do not see
why some of us
are making fists,

consider that 
our open hands
have been slapped away,

handcuffed,
bound to stakes for burning,
even cut off so often

that balling them
into stones that cannot be
so easily moved

seems to be
the last choice left
to us.

We reserve the right
to open them again,
buds becoming blooms,

once we can trust
that true spring
has come.


An American Prayer 2019

1.
cursed be the past in repose upon its legacy whether true or false.
cursed be the imagined landscape of plenty and peace.

cursed be the flag of mistake and protection of the one at the expense of the Other.
cursed be the song performed upon occasions of contest and symbolic war.

cursed be the paint by number picture of normal and right and ordinary.
cursed be the faces made up to seem divine and honorable.

cursed be the banners of cowardice and treason made to seem virile.
cursed be the weapons borne openly into street and school and synagogue.

2.
holy the color of truth seen in spite of prism and lens and curtain.
holy the strength restrained by robbed wallets and pockets sewn shut.

holy the fullness of the body in defiance of the shame of expectation.
holy the strength of the body when taxed with reluctance and sorrow.

holy the ground full of origin bones waiting to be dug up and displayed.
holy the diggers of bones as they lie awake in the storm of disturbed ghosts.

holy the mascots and caricatures donning their own skin again at last.
holy the snake in the deep crust writhing and preparing to break through.

3.
we lay the prayer upon the day whenever and wherever we wake.
we lay the prayer down on the table before the selective feast.

we lay the curse before the blessing as it shall be swept before it.
we lay the curse out with eyes open and skin ablaze from centuries of flame.

we can only be quenched when the fullness of the fire is revealed.
we can only be healed when the darkness in the center of the wound is illuminated.

we claim the curse as our own to bind it to our work.
we claim the blessing as our own and free it to go where it must.


Pyres

They tied people
I might have loved 
to stakes placed high

on piles of gasolined wood,
bound them with ropes
they bought on my credit.

They set those pyres alight
with bills I handed them 
from my wallet

and when the condemned
screamed, they turned
my music 
up loud enough

to make it seem 
that the cries of the immolated
were distant,

discordant coincidences
not in the soundtrack
from the start.

I bowed my head 
and looked at my hands;
empty, supplicant,

stinking of
accelerant, blistered

and scarred from heat.

They also held my tears
and though I wept for it all,
though my weeping

should have added
salt to my wounds,
they barely stung;

when I looked up
at the ones tending the pyres,
I saw my hands there.


The One In Which I Trust

There — a poet 
saying

soul, crystalline,
illusion, diaphanous,
eldritch, mystic,
heartstrings, crystalline
(again);

and another 
saying

justice, aggression,
oppression, supremacy,
revolution, war,
peace, justice
(again).

Over my shoulder 
the voice of one
saying

nuts, bolts, 
pencils, slipjoint pliers,
leaf-litter, lighters,
smocks, lighters
(again);

this is the one
I turn to hear,

the one
in which I trust.


Show Your Papers

A phrase
that stabs safety
to death.
Some shudder

whenever it’s uttered — say,
when they are stopped
by a roadside, knowing
that to reach for them

too quickly
or too slowly
or to question the need
to show them at all

might be fatal.
Others shrug, say
it should be routine
and if nothing forbidden

is happening, why
worry at all? These
are the folks
who do not understand

how much has been
forbidden to so many
in order for them
to live so snugly

in their cocoons,
ignorant of such fear,
such pervasive,
grinding fear.

Those who shrug
do not understand
how much depends
on that lack of understanding.


Concerning Your Enemies

Until they fear you
as much as they make you fear them,
they will not feel you at all,

will not feel you as human
until you fell a few so they can see
you are as capable of mayhem as they are.

This is a blasphemy, you say?
A spiral down to their level?
You can’t be serious.

Once they were as you.
Once they understood. They did not
come to this on their own: they were

guided to it. Do not forget that
even as you tear into them
and teach them to fear.

They see you as insects,
pests, vermin;  you must see them as
human, even as you strike them;

only if you feel no pain 
at having to do as they have done
will you join them at their level.


Old Gods Awake

Did you ever imagine anything
could creep up on you
as this time has done?
Or did you expect it,

as many of us have,
understanding how the original gods 
of this land were stripped
of honor and turned into

marketing tools and silly icons
for the Colony to use
as it saw fit? Those
shocked by the soul insult

of that revelation, step back;
there are so many here
who watched the rising and,
knowing what was to come,

built their lives under armor
and raised children so wary
of the future they believe 
it may kill them early — 

and if it does not, 
their lives will be hard
but filled to the rim 
with moments of tough beauty

and bounty formed of luck
and grit in iron bond.
Your continued shock is insulting.
Your paralysis is not surprising.

Those who know old gods
know they do not die.
That you didn’t know this
tells us who may survive.