Tag Archives: political poems

Messages

Words to live by:
nickel and dime.

As in nickel and dime
all the way into next month.

As in nickel and dime me, lover,
all the way to the end.

Or one might say
a thousand cuts.

As in here’s a lifestyle
perfect for the man

with a thousand cuts.
As in to get to the core

takes a thousand cuts.
Maybe the next words

ought not to be words
at all. Maybe instead 

the next message is
a backhand-slap 

reimagining of
a national anthem,

any country will do;
you don’t get to sing along

because you don’t know
this melody. It’s not the one

you grew up singing. 
It’s not what you were taught.

You’ve stopped sleeping and instead
wait for messages to come to you

in your dark bed. Your hope is that
the right one will come in overnight.

Your eyes sting in the morning
from eyestrain while

trying to read
something on the wall. 


Colonial Style Furniture

Ask the Colonial style furniture
on which I’m sitting.
It will tell you
I’m a heavyweight

but compared to the ledge
that juts into the basement 
of this ragged, saggy house,
I weigh nothing. In 1890

instead of blasting
they figured it out and
put the house on that stone
then dug room for stone walls

around it and for 132 years 
they’ve borne the weight
of all the wood and mice
and people who’ve been here.

Don’t tell that to my furniture,
though. It denies history
and the earth that holds it up.
It hogs the glory for bearing my weight

as if it has been my sole support.
Maybe it doesn’t know how often
I go to the basement and thank
the ledge and the dirt floor

for their years of service
to my big, dumb ass
and all the asses big and small
that came before me.

Don’t listen to the furniture.
It has forgotten that it came from
the same earth. It wants to take
all the credit for holding me up.  

It’s as much 
colonizer
as its dated style 
would suggest.


Scratch And Bleed

Buy the tickets,
then dig from your pocket
the lucky quarter minted
the year you were born.
Rub the gray parts, trade
any winning tickets in
for new ones, repeat 
until you win no more.
Having scratched the itch 
you wipe the blood 
from your wallet
and head for home.

On the way you feel the tug
of the bar and stop for one, then two.
This whisky tastes like your own blood
as it stops the tickle within for a moment.
The air here is full of karaoke, 
a night of allergen songs,
happy people who somehow
aren’t scratching. You hope
that joy is contagious
but as your skin is getting anxious,
home at last you go.

Which of the convenience store meals
in your fridge should you microwave?
Pull out that quarter one more time,
settle on the deadly burrito.
This is, of course, a pure contradiction
to all you know about your body.
You’re going to itch inside all night
if you eat this late, as you always do.
At least you are home,
bloody man, itchy bloody man.

You try to count what’s left in the wallet.
The denominations are so red
you’ll have to try again
when the bills are dry. It won’t matter
overnight that you don’t know;
you know that come morning,
whatever happens,
it won’t be enough. They used to call it
death by a thousand cuts. 
Now it’s just called being an American:
scratch and bleed from wallet to belly
to soul or to what replaced the soul
after you sold it while thinking the itch
would go away.


Politicians’ Hairstyles

behold
the mad construction of 
these politicians’ hairstyles 

sculpted to hold
a hard crest like 
a cruel dragon or cold raptor

or left loosely spectacular
as wild as some 
indecent architecture 

what you see is the result of a devil
running its hand through
early on in their lives

tousling their pelts into flags
saying “don’t ever forget
you’re my special boy”

and they don’t


Do The Math, Become An American

You have been born
into a palace. 

Carved into
the walls of the palace

is an equation
that is itself a palace 

all its own, a palace
made of directions

to enter a farther palace
beyond all mathematics

where you can live forever
instead of staying 

and eventually dying
here in this first palace

where you are only
allowed to be either

spectator of, or specter for,
the immortals inside the

palace of math, the ones
who have figured it all out

or were born into it;
that’s all they will ever know

of you, your struggle 
with numbers,

your mad scratching
at the walls trying to 

figure out how to have
what they have.

You are to them
either specter of the disastrous

life outside, or spectator for 
the luxury of being inside, 

and while you do the math
to figure out how palaces

may be entered by command or
fortune or breach, they keep

watch.  There’s math
to be done on their side too:

the simple arithmetic 
of how to raise the walls,

no matter how close
you or anyone may get

to solving for
the key,  for zero;

for the red white and blue
on the other side of the x.


Punch

Hard, too hard:
the punch down
once again. 

If we mean 
to stop this,
we must punch up 

and not with words
alone, not with boycotts
or shame. 

Punching up
requires
punching. They know

how not to hear,
how to drown our
voices. It’s the base

under their
whole monumental
world. To break free

will demand
breakage. The less
we accept that truth

in the name of 
peace, the more they will drive us
before them with their

punching, slashing war.
To punch back is
to admit that war

is upon us. To punch up
is to admit we may have no choice
but to steal back weapons

they have stolen in
punching down always, 
snatching up our strength

and calling it their own
as they have from the beginning
of what they call history,

the time we know only 
for its endless hammering 
from above. 


Consideration

Consider the underbrush
around your home
The tangle that should be cut
to save the trees in case of fire
Been growing for years 
Rome wasn’t built, etc.
This took ages to grow this thick
and underneath
this dark

Consider now your town
The messy underpinnings
of its civic life and how
the citizens long
to smile through it all and
above it all saying
Rome wasn’t built, etc.
Go slow, take time
to consider, etc.

Consider the proximity of history
Consider the new bite of old smoke
Consider the fresh taste of ancient heat 
Rome wasn’t built, etc.
but it burned in a night

Consider that 
the emperor is said
to have played through that
and now consider
the underbrush again
and at last consider
a machete


The Surrender

When the surrender came
so many were surprised
that they had even
been at war

that the mandatory celebrations
sounded like thousands of shuffling feet
moving in a continent-wide circle

while bonfires burned
in our towns and cities
and people murmured
their shock at what had just happened.

Meanwhile others shrugged
and hid their well-used weapons
in places near at hand,

experience having taught them
the meaning of the red dots
visible beyond the light of those fires,
reflected also in

the glint
of white fangs
in the dark.


We Are Infinite Hope And Light

We
(I don’t know
that word anymore)

Are
(or that one as all I know
of being is “were”)

Infinite
(but only if
We limit others

and who is 
this “We” 
and who are these “others”)

Hope
(which seems to be
a good thing by definition)

and Light 
(if that is opposed to 
what We have right now

it cannot come
soon enough
and may be too late)

What we
we mean
these words 

to mean has
itself
become mean

Welcome to
the limit of
light and how

“We” feels when
spoken
in the dark

after tossing
the jigsaw puzzle of 
what Hope looks like

back into its box
and shoving it
to the back of the closet

We are
not responsible
for any missing piece

and who
are you calling “We”
anyway


The Professional

That man talks
like he ate
a fake newspaper
Is shitting out
a correction but afterward
can’t get himself quite clean

As if he swallows
lawsuits for the mob
the way
other men
eat swords for fun
and money

As if he was just served
a subpoena written 
in acid on leather
Chewed it real slow
Coughed it out
soaked in bile

As if he can smell
the white stench 
upon which he hangs
his every word
but to him
it smells 

like roses
grown
in dank soil 
piled high over
fresh 
enemy graves


Poem To Be Poured Into A Musket Barrel

This is a poem
made to be poured like
120 grains
of gunpowder
into your musket barrel

as the advancing lines
of the enemy king’s
soldiers come
within range of
the deadly aim
you are sure
you possess
in your fantasy
of stopping them cold
before they overrun
your position
and force you
into surrender
or death;

this is a poem
for when your weapon
misfires, a poem
to be remembered
as you prepare to fall
to your knees or
upon your sword
in desperation
because nothing
in the legends
of your people
taught you how
to lose

and now you have
no choice but to learn
how to go low
now that the high ground
is no longer safe.


Poem To Be Etched On A Knife

This is a poem
to be etched
on a knife.

It does not deal
in wide scale acts.
The Statue of Liberty

will not be made to vanish
this way — this is instead
made for close-up menace.

This poem 
on this blade:
talisman upon talon

for intimate
self-defense. 
Can serve as well

as kitchen tool or
letter-opener,
freeing good news

or payment due message
from its envelope 
after a wipe-down from

the work of sustenance,
the chore of making do;
still, when gripped and swung

correctly in the 
right moment,
it can do enough

well enough. Even after
you are done this poem
shall hold enough blood

in its letters that it
will never forget when you had
no choice but to cut.

This is a poem
made to carry that
for you. Go then, eat,

then rest. You’ve done enough,
and well enough. You have time. 
You remain alive. You are still you.


Poem To Be Wrapped Around A Brick

“i don’t want to see a poem unless it’s wrapped around a brick.”  Madeleine Roux, on Twitter, following the Roe v. Wade reversal. 

This is a poem
to be wrapped around
a brick

Because the sound
of breaking glass
swells a crowd 

which then surges
in the direction
of the shattering

Because a crowd 
is necessary for what comes
after the glass is broken

as reading a poem
out loud only does
so much in so much noise

Because so much
needs doing
So much glass to break

This is a poem
to be flung
through those windows

Because paper
has proved itself
untrustworthy

Rewrite this poem in 
gasoline then stuff it
into bottles also full of fuel

Because a good match
held to the poem
before launching

will turn it 
into a fire anthem
agains the now-sunless sky

This is a poem
to be hurled at
the sources of darkness

Because
it’s not their war
to win

Returned as projectile
As remonstrance  — as reminder
that this cannot stand

against the fire
this time
next time

This — bah!
No more poems unless
they are written in blood


General Strike

Somewhat broken.
Frayed. So-called
irreparable.
Dinged up and 
flagged for
obsolescence.
Reduced,
made ready to go
to highest bidder.
You know us. You 
think you know us.

Been here
under your noses
long years passing. 
Folk-song old, 
nursery-rhyme
obvious, not
pop-tune insinuation
incessant; more
embedded, part of
vocabulary — you 
use us unconsciously,
need us but cannot
bring yourself to see
that we as aggregate
cannot be bought,
not completely.
We rent ourselves
to you. You
owe us what we
are worth and we
are worth everything
you have.

If we 
just hold tight
to each other. If we
do not fail along
our faults. If we
sing as we are born to 
sing, stay as your
base layer, keep you
warm until we melt away
and then stand by as you
shiver. We hold 
power over
temperature. We
know how to make you 
freeze, how to
stand by singing
as you do.


Civil Unrest

They so smug
and stinky
with attitude

unearned power
inability to think beyond 
their own Stench

Worry up the people
saying there will be
civil unrest oh no

if and if and if oh no
this that
and the other oh no

oh no
oh no
oh no no no no

No to
sword and scales
doing as designed

They so smug 
and ripe with
a hey nonny nonny

hey derry down
Singing the one song they know
Always ends with don’t even go there

One hand on a big damn gun
One on some fat book
or another 

They so tremendous
Gaseous cloud making
national poison sunset

They so wring handed
They so rolling eyed
You don’t want civil unrest do you

Talking past us
born Stench sick
Talking past us 

song sourcing
land naming
world molding

choke throated
chest burned
child missing

grave stained
stolen
school tortured

compressed but
never small or beige enough
to hide or fit among them

They so right
We don’t want unrest 
to be at all civil

when — blessed paradox —
fire and smoke
can clear the air