Tag Archives: political poems


What’s become clear is that
your enemies have the easy stuff
figured out and countered and

that’s at least in part because
you yawp like a puppy instead of
growling or better still coming at them

in silence with cunning 
and the strongest weapons you have
loose and swinging in your hands.

Your best bet
is to keep your mouth shut,
mostly. Don’t expose
the back of your throat

where your best weapons 
hang — not the throwaways
you store on the tip of the tongue
but the sharpest edges,
the thickest batons,
the rifles with the laser sights.

You won’t listen.

You will die pretending
we are not at war.

We are not there yet,
you will say, even as you fall
bleeding into the sand.

We are not there yet,
you will say, as you die.

Edging Your Lawn

You edge your lawn
by trimming off
the parts of it
that intrude upon
the borders of
cement walks,
well mulched
beds of flowers, and
clusters of
hedges and shrubs.

You edge your lawn 
although you know
how unnecessary
your lawn is.

You know, you should turn it over
and make it into a garden.
Do it to feed yourself,
your family,
your people.

You know
what you should do
but instead, 
you edge your lawn.

You edge your lawn
with small swords. 

You edge your lawn 
to hold back a riot,
to stem chaos.

Clean lines,
segregated spaces,
perfect delineations,
evenly spaced boxes
for life.

Your lawn
pushes you
to keep it pretty,
serving that
which is useless.

You edge your lawn
in spite of 
how hungry you are.

True Crime Stories

True crime stories
half the day
on half the media

unless you include
celebrity news

and then it’s all media,
all the time.

I wish instead of this 
I could go outside and 
talk to a tree but I think
it would insist on speaking
of climate change and air quality
so there’d be no relief there,

that’s a crime as well
and as true as the rest
and we know who the culprits are
and we have the evidence
of our bitter sweat
and hampered breath

to turn over to the authorities
if only we knew who they were.

So I stay inside and use
the flipping of channels as
palliative care, changing 
when the dread becomes

The only comfort left to me
is the hope of updates on ancient episodes
of Cold Case Files and Unsolved Mysteries;

anything to suggest that though justice
grinds slow, it does grind fine
and finally.


I’m not worried about
the long run with these
barbarians. They give off
the whiff, the white heat
of desperate knowledge.
They know they’re done.

It may take twenty
or thirty years, hundreds or
thousands of dead for that
to come to completion.
It won’t be pretty,
but it is inevitable.

We know it too.
We understand their 
fear.  Which is not to say
we feel compassion for it 

or that we should; there’s been
too much of that already,
too much care for their feelings,
too much accommodation 
to their ideas as we twist ourselves
into painful shapes to prove we
are not the same as them, when truth is

we are not.  Never have been.
Any assumed parallels 
come to a vanishing point
in every single instance.

Plenty of immediate killing things
to worry about
in the air, the water, the heat
and the cold and the growing wilder winds
roaring over us all. They had their hands
in that as well, of course, and soon enough
those things will do their worst.
Who knows yet how we will survive those?

But the barbarians, the torch boys,
the crooked crossing guards, the pale
first responders to dog whistles, the wealthy
in their slit-windowed financial houses, 
the small monsters in the pointy hoods?

They will do their worst, knowing
how little time is left to do it.
Maybe decades,
maybe a century; maybe.

No thousand-year
self-satisfied reign.
No. It’s time.
They know. 

This war
is how they mourn.


In planning for subterfuge
I strive to emulate a mad white dog
who stretches out on snow
in full daylight
and nearly disappears 
while remaining in plain sight
of those willing to look carefully
into that which by its very nature
blinds a viewer and obscures
what is being viewed.

In planning for resistance
I work hard to transform myself
into one of a host of frogs
falling from the sky
onto the porches and streets
of those who do not believe
in such things happening, those
who scoff at the possibility
of humble beings pouring down
upon them in their complacency
and ruining, possibly forever,
at least for a moment,
their paradigm. 

In readying myself
for what is coming
I stare at my reflection 
and think of replicating
the actions of virus, or 
of bacterium — unseen and
anonymous, sometimes
not doing visible damage
for appreciable time, leaving
tunnels and palaces
within the opened body of the host
in such a way
that all manner of new life
may enter and make a home.

In thinking out loud 
of these tactics, I see they may be
terrifying enough 
up front
to create in the body 
an unease that will do

half my work before I make
any decision, and when I do choose
it will be a choice
made without announcement, made
for the love of the future, fully aware
of what must come before that love
can openly manifest.

Next Steps

Revised. First published, March 2018. Original title, “Requirements.” 

Start by reimagining 
the American flag
as a door anytime 
you see it.

See it as a locked door
with a complex code
you’ll need
if you want to enter. 

Then picture an eagle in tears,
starving, exhausted; 
the eagle on the Seal,
the one that has not been able to feed

with its wings up
and its talons full
for all these years.
Start wondering

what’s under 
your Uncle Sam’s 
hat, why he
looks so pissed 

as he points at you.
You thought you were tight.
After all, you’re family, or
so you were told.

Start wondering where that dollar bill
has been, where
they’ve all been. Start
thinking about them

in your pocket, your hand,
resting across your bare skin;
who paid for what with them
before they came to you.

Start imagining how hard 
you will have to kick
to take down that door.
Think about what might be on

the other side.  Soon,
your foot will start twitching,
longing to act 
even before you start willing it.


Before we begin,
a quick explanation of the Process

might be in order since
you may be wondering what is involved.

The Process removes
not only color but fragrance as well;

strips away the stain
of your inconvenient birth;

lifts and separates you
from your base;

gives you a flag
to cover your wounds;

is an offer, an estimate,
a matching grant;

allows for some variance
as a flavor, a hint. 

Lucky you —
not everyone

is afforded access
to the Process,

but you look like
the type. You look like

someone who would
do well with it, who

would be worthy of it.
Who would support it

after you’d been through it
Who would help enforce it. 

Who would know 
how to choose the right people

to go through it
in the future.

If from this you don’t
understand completely

how it works,
that’s all to the good.

It’s not necessary to see
all the machinery behind it

as long as you are willing
to go through it. In fact

that might reduce your
willingness, seeing all

the boring milling
and smoothing involved

in the Process.  It might
put you off what we promise

is a delightful result.
What we promise you

is a lightening of
the load you carry.

What we offer is
a great hope; you know,

I’m certain, 
the kind of hope we mean.

The kind of hope carried like
an unquestioned passport

over the walls and fences
you may encounter.

The kind of hope
on which this country was founded.

The kind of hope
that can stop a bullet.


From October 2017.  Revised.

In the works of
Quentin Tarantino
revenge and retribution
are frequent themes.

I think they reveal 
the fullness of 
recent American 

This explains so much of
how we got here,
where we’re going,
why we can’t turn aside.

We’re in Tarantino’s world.
Think of all the casual
evil accepted within
his concepts high and low.

Think of how
he excuses
the worst language,
the worst behavior,

through a complex math
that adds injustice and
revenge and gets
a cleansing zero.

Think of how 
with winks and smiles
he comforts, then authorizes
a stab, a shot, a blow.

Think most of all
of the one where 
an actor demands
his men bring him

one hundred scalps —
usually enough
to make me turn it off
and turn away;

too long a history
for me and mine
to fantasize in comfort
over scalping once done to us

for bounties 
much like this one. Still,
late nights or early mornings
when I sit and see the news,

when I watch 
and wring my hands, sometimes
I whisper when I know 
no one will hear

a phrase that tells me
I am part of his world now,
although I hate it: “One hundred?
Not enough. Let’s make it 101.”

Don’t Sing

To sing in the mouth
of that which consumes you
is no strategy.

To sing among the teeth
descending into you
is not acceptable..

I don’t care what the positive thinker says
of the need for love and civility.

I don’t care for the One
who said to turn the other cheek.

To open your mouth
and offer hymns of praise
to compliance and martyrdom
as you are consumed
is no good thing.

To be swallowed
without at least attempting
to strangle them as you descend,

to loose your throat
without sticking in their throat,
is not noble.

Is atonal, is
dissonance, is
anharmonic, anti-

To offer your music 
in the presence of that
which only sings your death – 

how would that song sound?


Peace is a glimpse
of my partner
lying zig-zag and still
under our sheets, seen
in dim light as I rise
and tend to our insistent cats
at dawn,

reassuring me 
that once this is done
I can return to her side
and fall back to sleep
in as good a place as I can find
in this brightening,
frightening world. 

That there is still at least
one safe harbor 
is enough to let me
remain awake for now
and face the light
that comes now to reveal
what has lately come to power
during the night
from the dark.

Each Other

Thinking of
the current
ragtag state of

our ramshackle bodies,
crude hovels staggered below
hillside mansions.

As always, our pains
are best explained
in our own idiolects,

so we try to listen
to each other,
to hold on to each other.

It’s not been easy,
this long approach to the 

To bolster us
as we attempt to bridge it,
or prepare to fall, what we have

is memory, each other, 
attention, connection, 
each other once again;

shared anger, shared compassion;
hope and its near-companion,
each other.

It’s darker than we thought.
Our ramshackle bodies
whisper to each other

in our own tongues
and strive to understand.
Some do, some don’t,

some find it easier not to listen. Not
to even hear. So much shouting,
shooting, fire, gas,

gaslighting that illuminates
nothing but its source. 
Each other, we say. We

reach for each other.
All we have. Our ramshackle,
ransacked lives. 

Our connections. Our hope
that we will find each other
among slow-building piles of ruin.

The Straight Razor

This deep into my life
I have begun shaving with
a straight razor

not so much for the trendiness
of the act among
certain smug sectors of the hip population

but from a lust for sustainability
born from a desire to stop 
disposing of so much good steel

Also in the spirit of this
historical moment
I need solid proof

that with care
I can enter danger daily
and come out clean

As I do not believe
danger will play fair
in the streets 

it is good to know
I can take it on my chosen turf
in at least one small way

I wet my face and lather up
Set the edge against my skin
Draw it at the proper angle

through the white mask I’ve donned
Think of my grandfathers
as I take care upon the jawline and chin

If I nick myself I do not stop
If I see red I do not flinch
but finish and administer stinging care

until I see the face I want before me
Then comes maintenance of tools
and cleansing of sink and mirror

It is a ritual and as such
things must be done well
and precisely from start to finish

One more thing
A straight razor
fits well in a boot if need be

and once you know
what you are doing with one
that is a fine place to keep it

Three Broken Sonnets For A Broken Time (The Rowers)

Sitting with elders, watching as they 
row softly toward the far shore, as they
relax into the final strokes
and glide into that last landing;

that’s been my life of late.
It comes to all of us, or should
come to all of us who last long enough
to see our elders fade from our reach.

Too many do not live to see this.
Too many never see a quiet passage.
Too many do not see the shore coming
from far away; too many reach it

violently, faster than they wanted,
faster than anyone wants.

I’m not close to that shore myself
but I now and then catch a glimpse — 
a break in the clouds above the horizon,
a scent in the ocean I struggle against

that makes me think of shifting 
toward rest and letting go —
and then I shrug and put my back
into the oars again, 

sure that I’ll get there, of course,
as we all will but certain as well
of all the strain still ahead of me
before I can lay off the work and say

it’s time for me to relax, time to let the tide
pull me in to that far shore.

These days it feels that we are all rowing,
harder than ever, toward a much rougher shore.
There are times I envy the elders
who are gliding to the light in some peace.

I sit and watch them go
and dream myself of such a passage.
I do not want to see the final days
we seem to be approaching — though I know

all finality is temporary, that beyond it
there is always a beginning, always
something to look for; hope is a survivor’s
oar, a sweet ache in a rower’s shoulder.

I sit by bedsides, watching elders fade from view.
I turn back to my own rowing. I weep, and then I hope.

Poem Or Trigger

I’ve done many things
already today

but what I cannot apparently
do today

is pull a poem.

Once I could do that
as easily as I could once
pull a trigger. 
It might not be good —

I have been admonished
more than once
for abruptness, for

doing it too fast,
for not taking time

to breathe or aim 
as I should —

but I could do it easily
and most of the time

strike where I aimed.

Today though.
Not today.

A poem is
beyond me — 

ah, but the trigger
is simpler and more
to the point and while
it has been a long time

even scared and unsure, 
even possibly at the risk
of making things worse,

I think I have no choice.

That’s how it always is
with a poem
as well.  Right down to the 
potential for 
death resulting, but

in the face
of such a day as this,
who am I not to do
what I can.

Thought Experiment

I am sorry, so sorry
that now we have come
to the point at which
the thought experiment 
in which one tries to decide
what they would have done
in the path of tyranny
has become so obviously
no longer theoretical.

I am sorry, so sorry
that we did not do 
what we should have done
when we somewhat knew,
almost were certain, had
a chance to keep us from
ever knowing the reality
of the thought experiment.

I am sorry, so sorry
that there are those
we failed and failed 
on the way
from the thought experiment
to the moment when
the thought became
a recognition and the recognition
became a horror and 
the horror became