Tag Archives: political poems

After Jericho

I’m going to break
that wall with this trumpet,
even if I can just crack it
then let this coming
hard weather
do its part; I’ll gladly
play solo as it comes hurtling
down on itself and becomes
a heap of adobe and regret.

It might not be an immediate fall
but I can wait for what’s clearly
inevitable for as long as it takes.
No matter if I die waiting
as long as I can be buried
with my horn in my hands;
put us both near to where
those walls once stood.
I want my grave to be close by
in case someone tries to rebuild,
in case I am needed again. 

I swear to all who can hear
that I will rise to any battle
and bring shattering music to it,
no matter how dead I may seem.

It Has Stopped Now

It has stopped now.
No going forward.
It’s going to end right here
where it has stalled.

Gently, gently,
we call to it. If you’re
going to fail, do it
gently; fade, don’t explode.

Each day it sits there
we can hear a fuse
burning within, crisp sizzle
suggesting that 

it’s not listening or
can’t hear over 
that sound. It’s stopped
and going no further.

Its weight is sinking it.
Its rust is hindering it. 
It’s too close and too vast
for us to escape from

how this will end. Gently,
gently, we implore it.
It’s not listening. Shouting
gently, gently? Nothing. 

If history holds true,
we should be running 
now. Far away, as fast as
we can. But here we stay

praying for fadeaway, a getaway,
good closure or improbable escape
after all: but here it is, stopped,
right where we are.

Fatted Calf

When those bodies
hit the floor, falling
insensitively into
our lives via our
screens, poking 
once again at
our entitled sense
of safety (how dare
these children die
before we have a chance
to sit down from 
last week’s funerals)
we take barely
the customary moment
to stop and smell
the rancid smoke
of pyre thoughts
and cremation prayers
pouring from the ears
of those who might in fact
have the power
to stop this shit
before we let them 
kick the bullet-full can
down the blood-full road
while saying to ourselves
this time will be surely be
different as we keep one eye
of our fatted calf’s view
on the horizon
and wait.

Spirit Of ’76

It’s not like we’re unaware.
We all sense where it’s going
but the safest way for some to thrive
is to pretend that there’s no knowing.

It’s been this way for quite some time.
Obvious where we’re at.
No more hiding the longed-for crown
under a tri-corner hat.

No more fife, no more drum,
no more ragged flag.
Only the industrial song
of ghouls in fashionable drag.

No more dancing, no more gray,
no more letting be.
Only the chains of a fascist’s god
pretending it’s liberty. 

It’s not like we’re unaware.
We all know what is coming
but the safest way, some of us claim,
is simply to stop running.

They’ll surrender to the horde behind,
roll over on their backs,
and die by reason and in trust
that they’ll succeed with facts.

It’s been this way for quite some time.
Doesn’t matter what we desire.
We only get ahead of it
by turning toward their fire

and offering our best offense
in the war we’re already in;
we fight because the fight is here,
no matter if we win. 


They settle.
It’s what they do.
“Colonial” now is just
a settled style, a label
for what to them is 
a quaint moment
in their past. “Frontier”
is a counter spell
they’ve settled on
to counteract
the miasma around
“genocide.”“Antebellum” prettifies
their mouths and settles
raw old acid in their stomachs,
and “settler” itself is now nobler
and sweeter than history
would suggest. 

They tell me to leave it alone,
say it’s just a way of speaking,
aren’t you tired of talking as if
it’s so damn deadly out here?
Settle down and look at the lovely eclipse
or something more or less not
killing you or those you love right now.
So much beauty in the world. So much
to be said for that, you one-note note taker
on the warped order of the settled places;

try speaking instead of what you think
of the sparrows and starlings. Speak of how they settle
on the feeders or the ground to eat and eat 
and shit and eat some more, of how they do it all
so natively you’d think they were here all along.
Settle in, half-breed; after all, you look like you could belong.
Find some beauty round here and act like 
you are the poet we know you can be and watch 
the sun come up over the old farm pastures
where the surveyors and diggers have yet to roam.


We believe
you should know
that you could become
the face of the moment 

like a green-eyed girl
in a refugee camp
on the cover
of a magazine

or a girl kneeling over a boy
shot through the mouth
in a newspaper story
about an antiwar protest

You could be even be more
A whole country’s heart-sized hole 
A tear-trailed staring mask 
A death-flecked dirty suit of clothes

hovering by a mass grave
full of black plastic bags and flies
in the wake of a conflict
we’ve chosen for all to see

We think you have 
what it takes to be
the specimen needed
for such a time

We can even leave your name
out of it if you prefer — trust us
Ever hear of Sharbat Gula
or Mary Ann Vecchio

Just think it over
Sleep on it 
We’ll get back to you
when the time is right

Wires Got Crossed

Third floor neighbors 
had a lovely cat
who went nuts one day
and attacked and drew blood
from all who came near.
No disease, no injury
was found after they put her down;
no one could explain, the vet saying only
that no one knows, sometimes,
how wires get crossed.

I got up to pee last night
and grandmothers,
none of them mine,
were everywhere
in the house —
musty old aprons a-flutter
as they thronged the rooms
silently disapproving of 
everything. I came out
of the bathroom and they
were gone, with only the scents
of lilac water and disdain
left behind. I went 
right back to bed as if nothing
had happened, as if no sacrifice 
or offering could or should be made
in response.

It’s faintly ridiculous
to hear all this talk from all sides
about saving “the country”
when “the country” in question
is as dead as a roomful of 
broken disappointed grandmas
and as savage
as a cat in a third floor walkup
who hasn’t been
outside for years and
chooses violence and death 
as a worthy way to go. 

I don’t know why
any of this has happened
or why I don’t keep sage
in the house against such things
any longer, as I once did,
as if no one knows
how wires get crossed.

Fox On The Run

I don’t believe in this lyric Muse
everyone talks about

Swear we’ve never
had a conversation

I’ve listened for her voice
in the corn by the river

Always ended those nights
running home frightened and alone

If believed in the Muse
I might have heard her

chattering in my ear
at some point

second hand news
of a second hand band

Instead I had to 
run from the silence

and here I am again
on that river bank 

panting and hungry
Full of nothing

but my voice wondering out loud
why this endlessly feels 

like I am built to be
alone — a poor boy bereft

surrounded by tall dead corn
and thoughts of plunging in

to this river that could take me
to hear what I do not believe exists

here or anywhere
but I’m willing to be convinced

I’m ready to listen
to any mythology now

having had the practice of decades
straining in silence

to hear my country 
speak to me

as if I were worthy
of nodding along to its voice

that instead sounds like nothing
as much as a snapping flag on the wind

that rattles through this dry dead corn
whenever I stop running away

The Norway Maple

In a strong box buried
under a Norway maple
brought from Europe
when they first came here

they keep the old education
they refuse to acknowledge
in daylight. Knowledge
they leave to you to hold

as they smash away at your hands, 
ways of thought they turned off
and stashed in the box they claim
holds so little that it’s not worth opening.

Anyway, the box isn’t yours, they tell you.
The box holds Atlanteans, aliens,
Templars and old ones from 
everywhere else but here. Go forth and be

mascot, crisis actor, crystal-waving 
smudge idol for a generation of fakes. 
When we need you, we’ll let you know.
When the box rises from the ground

like a coffin displaced in the next great flood,
we’ll let you know. When the Norway maple
dies and falls upon us, we’ll let you know.
When it’s too late, you’ll figure it out.

Whatever You Do

whatever you do
don’t stumble

they’re listening
for that

if they sense
weakness — oh

none of it makes sense

in any human way
unless you think

predator in place of 

whatever you do
don’t be you out loud

messy you tripping 
exuberantly through

what should be safe
except they are there

listening and claiming
you — shhhhhhhh

don’t even breathe
they sit there gills out

in shallow water or
perched in crooked trees

with ears open
with claws for the likes of you

you know better — don’t have to do

a damned thing to be prey
except exist out loud and 

maybe stumble or not but
it’s what they do

the men in the water or trees
that’s what they do

The Barbarians

Don’t ask how it happened 
that they were raiders by birth 
or education — it’s not worth
the effort to understand it now,
this late in the game. Enough to say
they were raised and whipped
to be descendants of such people
and such ancient habits, once ingrained, 
are the hardest to kill. Somehow 
their homes are still castles
in their eyes, no matter how flimsy;
to them their big windows up front
are still the mouths of cave shelters, 
no matter how shallow they’ve made
the space behind them, the rooms 
where they live.

Most of us out here in the fields below
are targets, serfs, or lackeys; no exceptions.
It’s been folly to bet against them for so long
we fall in as rigidly as they do to our roles —
or we have for generations now. Sometimes
we stir and wonder about how this all happened
but once again, what matters more is how swiftly 
today can become tomorrow, how they seem now
to quiver for real at last as they look out upon us
from the caves they cannot help but call home:
the aging holes, the sagging walls, the coming
of a storm or a war they will not admit
is theirs to forestall.


That we do not understand 
how much of
each of us 
is already in custody

is the great triumph of an Enemy
we cannot see as an Enemy
because we have such
a broken definition of that word.

Each day that passes
is tacked on to our sentences,
even though we see
neither walls nor gates.

It’s all
in our heads, they tell us,
as if the bars and locks
are less effective because of that.

All night the screaming
elsewhere, but still in here.
Is it getting closer or is it all
in our heads, as they’ve said?

All night inside our heads, as they’ve said.
We wonder where it’s coming from.
It sounds so close. So familiar, close enough
to catch us by the throat and squeeze.

But Hey, We Did Get Out And Vote

In the beginning,
after the collapse became
inevitable, no alien hand
reaching in to stop it,
we kept using words like
“awakening” and “rebirth,”
but no one really wanted that
if it meant things would look 
truly different.

In the beginning,
after the birds fell silent
and the seas turned gray
and hopeless, after we began 
to notice the voice
of flatline in the wind, 
people said that was a song,
a new song, and it would be
alright sooner or later —
but none of them were singing
and that should have been a clue.

In the beginning,
once it had become clear
that hope would be a mistake
unless it was a hope of complete
erasure and restart, we kept at it
with chants and the like 
for a time. We did all
the small things
we were asked to do even after
it became obvious it wasn’t going 
to be enough. 

In the beginning,
we sat in the ruins 
of the time before
and did all the same things
and hated all the same people
and shit in the same holes
we’d always filled with our shit
before. We looked with disfavor
upon what we’d wrought and then
wrought it again in a slightly 
cleaner form until the true beginning
took us away from it and put us
in the garbage by ourselves
to dwindle as the new day began
to brighten and there we stayed until
finally we were gone. 


Pay attention: they’ve put a new hit
out on us. Anyone holding something other
than their Sun-bright view of this world
has a target on them now no spell alone can erase.

One eye out for the ambush, one eye
fixed on possible sniper’s nests; once again,
we must learn to live in the Sun’s kingdom
where Gray means nothing to the keepers of White.

Look out, my folk: there’s an ancient contract
with our names upon it. All their scopes trained
upon the time between twilight and dawn;
they only love the Sun, allow for nothing else.

Eyes wide open, all: as always, they wait in daylight
to seek those who step aside from their plain view
and their easy explanations. Under the light
of their Sun, we have dared to have shadows. 

Cats And Politicians

The morning writing I’d conceived overnight was going to compare cats and politicians. It isn’t going well. I like cats too much to do that to them and in fact I don’t think they are that much alike

until Coco, the elder of my pair, black, long furred, cranky, loyal to me above all other humans, once again sticks her claws into my bare foot to remind me of my morning routine

and to insist upon a spell of chasing the red dot until she is done with the exercise. I almost always submit to the demand but soon enough grow tired and stop until she huffs away

to find another annoyance — pawing at the bookcase doors, pawing at a yet-to-be-opened window, yowling in the kitchen for some yet-to-exist perfect food I’ve refused to offer

then coming back to where I’m trying to work to fall sideways before me and purr, illustrating her continued support regardless of my many failings. Sometimes I sit back and close my eyes

and pretend it will end if I ignore her, but it never does. 

All this time Miesha, the younger cat, sits and watches. Never engages unless I break down and offer more food, then shows up to eat and leaves to return to her observational duties. I worry

that she is half the age of Coco and is absorbing knowledge for her own future shenanigans, working through potential changes in her calico head
to make herself both more adorable and more successful than Coco

who is back from the catnip now, poking my foot. “Don’t you want to be immortalized in these words I am fashioning through your behavior?” She just pokes my foot again. I resort to the spray bottle,

thinking about the unopened window, the cold outside, the yowling in the kitchen. Miesha is watching birds now as I’ve obviously become stale. Coco comes back in and falls at my feet

and I’m still trying to think about politicians and cats, but the nagging and the constant insistent pain of Coco’s claws is making me so hopeless about ever living up to my promise as an artist

that I do not think
there is much left
for me to say
as one morning soon
(unlike any politician I know of)
I will likely die of despair
for never having done enough
to satisfy any being’s needs.