Tag Archives: political poems


What happens
in the backwash
of history
is still history.
Each massacre
is ongoing;
theft and conquest
rumble on until
it’s all been taken.

After that it’s just canon
and it reads cleaner,
like an old film
people call out as
the way they used
to make them, not like
today. They say,

stars were bigger then
and the movies today
are too small, too focused
on bullets, blood, and
who dies and who lives
without considering
all the glory the big films
made so clear and so
lovely to think about.
They really love their movies,
their tales of glory. History
be damned unless
it can be shined like silver.

Lucky there is always
more history to polish,
shape, and put to work.
That lucky old sunset
is always there for them
to ride into at the close
of their film.



perfect angel
or mistake. big dumb
or slight intellectual.
war cry or
blue honorific,


you find this
hard to follow? consider
how a bullet feels
upon learning its trajectory
has made it infamous


if you are
not yet numb from talking about it,
if you are not yet dumb about
only talking about it


tell us:

what should we say this time?
how do we wrap this one in words

beyond so
and again

so tightly
it shall be bound away
as the last?

Lone Wolf

We give you now
a self professed
freedom fighter
safe at rest
Who fell asleep
on a bed of stars
Awoke cocooned
in hardened scars
Then wore them like
a pale thick stole
Proclaimed them each
as more than royal
Presented them
as proof of purity
A broken frame
An insecurity
which led them to grow
a heart of bombs
to excavate
graves and tombs
in which to bury
the unfortunate collateral
casualties of ideologues
just as they are
a self-confessed
vigilante blessed
with peace
in knowing
they are already gone

Congressional Record

In a government built 
for and by men and only men
the most honor will be given
to those whose eyes mist over 
with bland depravity, the ones
who will square their shoulders
and sigh, "Well, nothing else
to be done here," then send 
soldiers and bombers
off to do bloody dirt 
they would not do
with their own hands. 
With their own hands 
they will sign orders 
for murder squads, then
go home to families, trot babies
on their knees till bedtime when they will
hand them back to women and go sit 
in their dark studies wondering 
what will emerge tomorrow morning
from the beige fog 
of incremental catastrophe in which 
they live and breathe.
They live and breathe 
for this distance from their kills
as if they've developed a taste for the news
of how children's bodies were churned
by explosives, how the targets ran screaming,
how the pushpins then were moved 
around their maps as a result, their eyes 
misting over with bland depravity, 
their lust for other lives twisting within them
as they vote, as they argue and deal,
as they campaign, as they square their shoulders 
and say, "So much more to be done, 
may we have your vote?"

Shining City On A Hill

It is as broken as Troy
or Fukushima.

As crumbled as numberless cities
still unfound and unnamed.

No beauty to it now
as if it were Atlantis

sill thriving under pressure and
without light. If it is even real,

it is no longer within
our reach if it ever was.

Do you hate this lament for it? I do.
I longed for it as we all did.

Embarrassed now to say that
I once sang of how it could be found,

entered, made into a home,
but it was bait. It was only

lure, only decoy. While I chased it
it slipped away and something different rose

on its site that stank of whitened bones
and old massacres. I looked for it

on a hill while they built it
in a charnel trench. They knew me

well enough to know how I could be
fooled, and I was so fooled. My song for

the city became a scream, a death metal
horn of rage. My angle on the angles

of the buildings and roads turned sharp
and bloody. It became impossible

to inhabit my body and say it belonged there.
It’s just a nowhere form. It’s a frame for loss.

They keep building their city, marketing Troy,
tell us to keep praying to the ghosts of Fukushima.

They insist Atlantis will reveal itself,
rise from the nuclear waves if I will just wait.

That city I see them drawing up from the waves?
Not Atlantis, but R’lyeh, and yes, they always knew.

You’re A Bad Boy

You’re a bad boy. You stay up well after midnight
to plan society’s future.

It’s easy enough. Just decide
what will terrify them

into their next inevitable dumb move;
then go make that happen.

Will they be more motivated by the acts of
their neighbors, or by the acts

of what they call “God?”
Or a stew of both — a storm drawn forth

from capitalism, a war clause invoked
over failing, stolen aquifers? Anything might do it.

It’s that close. How to make it happen
is the question that keeps you up.

You could just go out into the dark,
lie back in a dry field and pray for rain, or fire.

You could process and process the news
seeking the keys to the machinery

that makes such things happen, find tiny clues
or fake clues to their whereabouts, decide

for or against their veracity, exhaust yourself
in conspiracy, then die convinced in thick fog.

All you have to do, you realize, is go back to sleep.
Inaction is as powerful an agenda as anything else.

It might be dawn somewhere in the world
but you’re an American and all you have to do

to make the future happen is stay the night’s course
and go back to sleep. All you have to do

to wreck shit is be American.
Go do that, you bad boy. Make that happen.


Awakened at four twelve AM it’s all you’ve got
in the silent New England house:

the memory of being the driver
of the sole car

speeding west on a night highway,
speeding west from Albuquerque.

Tonight this memory
of the drive toward Acoma

is giving back a soul
you’d thought you’d lost years ago

from listening
to your boss insisting

that she knew better than you
how to pronounce the name of a place

she’d been to exactly
once on vacation. “Are you sure

it’s not a long O? It’s
Ah-CO-mah, I’m certain. Are you sure?”

“Maybe I’m wrong,” you said then.
But you weren’t.

Pronounce it in your head:
“AH-cuh-muh. AH-cuh-muh.” Acoma.

You were sure. Sure then, sure now.
Certain of the Sky City

still being there, ahead,
out there west of you off this shining road,

under this saving path
of stars, you say its name to yourself.

It wasn’t her speaking that took your soul.
It was your silence. “Acoma, I’m sorry,”

you say out loud
in the New England house.

Nothing feels like home tonight
except that name.

That Brick

I am swarmed with the absolutes
whenever I sit with this world — nothing,
nowhere, everything, everyone.

Sit, trying to see details,
trying to examine the particulars
that vanish in the wash of

outraged experience. The older I get,
the more I am drowned in absolutes,
the more I extrapolate from

that brick on the sidewalk, most likely
left over from some long-abandoned
project, kicking around here

for so long I can’t recall
its first appearance. I fantasize
it’s a leftover not of building

but of destruction, a leftover
of streetfight, revolt, of windows smashing
in defiance of landlord and overlord —

fall headlong into
nothing, nowhere,
everything, everyone

and there I am again, out in the world.
Far away from the brick on the sidewalk
in front of my house. The one

I have kicked aside for years
and never picked up. Never looked at,
not much anyway.

Never tried to build
or break a thing with it.
It’s just a prop for my immersion

in the absolutes of theory
and what I ought to be doing
with this art, this life.

I should be ashamed
that I have never
lifted that brick myself, stopping

to notice the specifics of any concrete
adhering to the sides. The discoloration,
the pitting. The weight.

I ought to have known its particulars
before deciding if it was to become
weapon or poem.

What Sondra Said

I’ve been told my whole life
I was born to the throne.

Instructed toward ownership.
Forced to trust in my own authority,

however lightly I carried it,
however little I wanted it.

Grew to reject it,
to surrender my place,

or so I thought. Sondra,
though — Sondra tore

the veil when she said,
“I am a woman, born

and built for sedition,”
and instead of agreeing,

something moved in me
and behind it, I glimpsed fear

and resistance
and only behind that was the face

I knew was my own true face,
and it looked free,

and not at all like the one
I call my own.

Leave It

An old show about an old story.
You know who wrote it.
You say you’ve never seen it?
That’s because you’re in it.

It’s been the same basic plot
from the start: eventually everyone
becomes either silent, dead,
or Ward and June.

Beaver and Wally? As long as they sell,
sell, sell and buy, buy, buy, it’s all good.
A hard hat for Lumpy. For Eddie Haskell?
A badge and a gun.

Except for June, they don’t need
named or memorable women, and as for
everyone else unseen it’s already
been discussed –silent, or dead.

You say you want to change the channel?
June looks worried. Ward puts down his pipe
and takes off his belt. Wally makes himself
scarce, Beaver waits in his room. Eddie grins,

and nobody gives a fuck about Lumpy.

Actors Unprepared

Imagine them told not to play
the only roles they understand.
Imagine them not having a script.

Nakedly standing there
without uniform or costume; understand
that they’ve been told to improvise,
that the play they’ve always played
is being shuttered.

They are just going to stand there
or grab a chair and sit down,
bury their heads in their hands or
pretend there is sand
and put their heads there.

More than a few
will grab props and lash out
with knives, guns, clubs: whatever
they can remember has worked
in the past to advance the action.

Poor things. Can’t say
that I blame them entirely,
or do not understand. Not every actor
develops a pure agency after having lived
as another’s dirty agent for a lifetime.

It doesn’t mean
we don’t still need them
to be swept from the stage
as soon as possible so we can
bring that curtain down
now. Not in due time,
not in a generation.
Now. Not eventually. Now.

Cookout Blues

A song is playing loudly
in the neighborhood, a song
you can’t stand hearing,
another person’s favorite song.

You worship at the altar of curation.
You can’t fathom why
they can’t use earbuds
to keep their atrocious taste to themselves,

dammit. This is America. You have
the right to be unbothered by
the presence of others. You have the right
not to find out who is who

through their music. Their food smells
good, though. If it were over here
you’d try it. But the music — the music’s
all wrong. It ought to be unheard,

and while we’re at it, they’re pretty loud
themselves. Too loud. This is America.
You have the right to call someone
and get them to do something about this.

You have the right not to know
one damn thing about the people
who lives up the damn block.
That’s why you bought the earbuds

in the first place. That’s the whole point
of a curated playlist. That’s the reason they invented
noise cancellation. You have the right
never to hear another voice as long as you live.


there are no small parts
only small actors

he told himself
as he slipped into
the cemetery with
a can of spray paint
after midnight

there are no small parts
only small actors

as he hung
a blasphemous flag
outside his home

no small parts
only small actors

as he chose
a sticker for
his bumper

small parts

chose a gun

small actor

chose a stage

no small actors

actors in the background
who move with purpose
advance the action

no small parts
no small actors

he told himself

The Tree

Every time someone
tells the story
of a routine atrocity or
an ongoing oppression
on a big enough
and well-lit stage,

someone watching or listening
will wring their hands
and fall to their knees in anguish,
crying out, “why is no one
talking about this?”

so loudly that it drowns out
the creaking
from the death-laden branch
of the well-maintained
and perfectly manicured tree
in their backyard,

the one that came with the house,
the one that sold them on the place
back when they were looking for
their forever home.

No Excuses

I wake up at last, sweaty and deadly.
All the specifics of my big bad dreaming
have been erased, but I know it was all focused
on what I will do or will not do for
my own satisfaction.

Ancient, Biblical, archetypal;
clothed in the flushed skin of my history,
choking on fragments of mythology’s
crude dictates: I don’t kid myself
into some sense of personal nobility.
Not after that. Not after the angry
and wanton night-swamp
I just waded through that has left me
drenched in stink and horrible to behold.

This is a shamefaced confession,
not a boast: if I had been an apple,
if I had been The Apple in The Garden,
I suspect I’d have fallen into her hand and left her
with no choice but to bite down and learn.
There would have been no coaxing,
only coercion. I know this because
as beastly as it is to say it,
there has never been any need
for demons to make it happen,
to turn a man toward Evil. A whole
order of civilization, a machine
of enforcement, has made this happen,

and this morning I rise and swear to do my best
to shower, cleanse myself of it as best as I can,
scrub off the long wet dream of domination,
and forget about looking for a snake
as an excuse for my being a serpent.