Tag Archives: political poetry

The Atheists Come Around The Corner

The atheists
come around the corner

and walk up to the scene of 
multiple crimes. Mostly

they’re OK. A little 
too sure of themselves

and somehow they
don’t care, but

when it comes to a choice
between their certainty and

that of the worst of the 
believers, I’ll take them

any day. And most of the believers
are OK as well, of course.

That said, anyone standing here
rubbernecking these

particular bloodbaths
is pointing such a loud finger at

the others that the dead
are probably glad to be rid

of all of them. They know
who is responsible for the way

they’re sprawling crooked
and fly-blown on their own ground:

it was those fingers that did it.
The pointing at others, the creation of 

others. Whether or not God
was involved is irrelevant

to a dead child. To the flies
and their maggots. To the scent

of death on the wind. All you need
to get here is a finger and someone

to point it
at someone else.

“A Country of Laws”

I live in a garden of weather-ground statues.
No names left on any of
their rotted pedestals.

Someone not in the scene
tells me these are
my ancestors. My Founding Fathers.

I am not so sure. So many of them —
the list of their names
would be longer

than law firm-long. Then again, maybe
it is true. After all, they have given me
a law firm’s legacy:

a little blood money in my pockets,
linked to a demand that in every situation
I either win or settle.


Snip snip and a snippet of fabric
tumbles and twirls to the middle
of the floor under the worktable
where it’s going to stay too far
from easy reach, safe from discard
or scrapping for the moment.
We are having a superhero cape made;
no time for the mess we leave behind.
Cape to wear when being heroic. Cape
to fling about dramatically upon victory
or to pull over our face as we slump in
temporary defeat. All the beautiful cloth
in such large dimension. All the dynamic
movement inherent in the drape and shape.

All you need to be a superhero is how you feel
when you’ve got the right cape. The waste
left behind is of no matter. The apparent blood
on the shears: is the blood coming from the hands
of tailors in the crowded shop or (more
fantastically, more illogical but still possible)
flowing in fact from the fabric itself; is it
possible? Do you in fact start with actual skin
to make a superhero cape work
and flow as it should?

It’s not our concern;
someone else makes the cape. We just twirl it,
make a great show of twirling it
as we put a supervillain temporarily away
because to vanquish them utterly we’d likely have
to take off the cape and get down on the floor.

Someone else gets down on the floor
to clean up the blood and the scraps;
then snip snip, start on a new one,
or perhaps on a shroud.
They have their calling. We have ours.
We live for the show. They are lucky to live.

Change Is A Drop In A Bucket

A drop in the bucket: an old cliche.
Every small act honored or dismissed
as a drop in the bucket.

Filling the bucket is expected and demanded.
The drops are incremental, are loved
or hated depending on how quickly or fervently
we wish for the bucket to become full,

and how deeply we want what is going
into the bucket.

A drop in the bucket repeated steadily —
a gun’s hammer-click ringing in metal, a pebble
bouncing against the hard plastic sides
as it falls to the bottom — maddening
to the heart or soothing to the ear. The sound
of the landing changing to splash from smack
or from thud to clink.

No one wants to think about
the ones drowning slowly
in the bucket.

The bucket itself
isn’t changing as it fills;
no one thinks of that except
the ones waiting
inside for it to be spilled.

Trying to tip it before
it’s too late.

Screaming for someone
to come kick it over.

Pushpins And Thumbtacks

Think of a map on a wall 
that shows where everything is and should be.

Thumbtacks hold it in place,
pushpins mark the important points on the map.

Every Confederate statue is a pushpin.
Mount Rushmore is a pushpin.

One World Trade Center is a pushpin.
Every picture of the smoking towers is a pushpin.

The words “Wall Street” are a pushpin.
The words “Main Street” are a pushpin.

Barbie is a pushpin.
Ken is a pushpin.

Pushpins are pink,
Pushpins are blue,

hamburgers and hot dogs
are pushpins, too.

Donald Trump is a pushpin
who thinks he’s a thumbtack
surrounded by pushpins
he’s pressed into the map.
They almost act like thumbtacks,
there are so many of them,

but don’t let them fool you:
they’re still just pushpins.

The military is a thumbtack.
The police are a thumbtack.
The justice system is a thumbtack.
The prison system is a thumbtack.
The labor of prisoners is a thumbtack.
The disenfranchisement of former prisoners is a thumbtack.

The educational system is a thumbtack.
The healthcare system is a thumbtack.
The food supply system is a thumbtack.
The deep decay of infrastructure is a thumbtack.

Pop culture is a series of brightly colored thumbtacks
placed in such a way that they look like pushpins.

Standing Rock is a thumbtack.
Flint is a thumbtack.
New Orleans and Puerto Rico are thumbtacks.
Michael Brown? Eric Garner? Sandra Bland?
Native women missing near the man camps of the oil fields?
All the people dead or missing for their bodies and souls
that did not fit the map?
Fresh blood on old stains that have been on the map so long,
we think they’re supposed to be there;

fresh blood in endless supply
seeping out from under the thumbtacks,
making it clear that they were pushed in to stay.

You see the map anew and realize 

it’s not only wrong, but that it’s designed, in fact, 
to get and keep people lost 
and to conceal certain information and features 
that exist but which are not shown on the map.

You reach up to the wall 
and start pulling pushpins out of the places 
that are deemed important by whoever put up the map.

The places THEY want to highlight, 
the routes THEY want you to travel, etc.

You start tossing some aside, 
put others back in different spots.

If there is a color code to the pins, 
maybe you subvert it 
or discard certain colors, add new ones, etc., 
so that they no longer represent 
what the mapmakers wanted.

You stand back and look at your work…
and it’s troubling, isn’t it?

It’s still their map.

You reach up and pull the pushpins out you just put in,
because they play a role in keeping the map
securely in place.

Then you start pulling the thumbtacks themselves, 
the ones that define the borders,
the ones that hold the map up.

You pull them one at a time at first
until you get enough slack to get a hand on a free corner 
and you rip the whole thing off the wall. 
You crumple it up and burn it in the fireplace.

And then you go outside:
bloody, singed, exhausted.

Maybe you are alone,
having lost everyone and everything,

but it’s been so long
since you saw the actual territory 

that you don’t know what’s actually out there, 
and it’s time to find out.

Walls Of Bones And Blood

Until you are by law under suspicion
for your face, do not speak too proudly
of the need to obey any other law.

Until you are by law under threat
of becoming slave or slain for walking
your path your way, do not claim

that if you are doing nothing wrong,
you have nothing to worry about. This 
is not a tale of unlawful doing, but one of 

unlawful being; unless you have lived
where you are always at war, or where war
always simmers just under boiling, do not speak

so confidently of the need for restraint,
do not sternly scold broken windows
in a landscape where everyone’s a casualty

by definition. If you live where that
is not the case, you likely live 
in a fortress made of bones cemented with blood

and unless you can see your own bones and blood
in those walls, don’t scorn those who are sick  
of seeing their entire past, present, and future there,

and who then attempt to tear it all down.