50* Poems for 50* States
An imaginary road trip in the lead-up to a very real election. For more, click on the title.
Say it. Come on now.
"Troublemakers" is code for
Folks who aren't your Volk.
The hypothermal fever
Dream of a woman hypothesizing
Shelter in a bus stop with
No sun lamps
Bigots Go Home Without Fear
a scream of consciousness
UIC, Chicago. 3/9/16.
bigots go home without fear
without papers what do we do
when muslim students are
under attack i'm asking you
for money because i'm forced to
stand up fight back show me what
america looks like anyone
missing a matta baby
what does your sign say
na na na na na na
hey hey hey good
bye anita you can't tell me
how to react to racism
what did he say what did you say
what we have here is
what he wants to take a way
he said he doesn't even like mexican
food peaceful peaceful show me
what democracy looks like
anyone missing a matta baby
we haven't had a crowd like this all day
i was told be safe it's dangerous to
get out of the car you wanna go
in peace shut it down shut it down
socialists anarchists regular people
blowing kisses who is who
knows maybe tonight i'll
shove that flag up your ass you
need to take smaller steps careful you're
giving him a high look at all those
pigs i mean cops on horses i'm nervous
they're here to protect us it's
alright we're gonna be alright
take a picture can i take a picture
i can't believe they shut down
the telephone towers i'm speechless
i need water i need air i can't breathe
she's gonna lose her voice excuse me
i'm talking show me what
democracy looks like the first amendment
sucker-punched shame on you kitler
shame on you traitors
they're still americans whose chicago
our chicago is unafraid against
the silent majority
cough cough white supremacists
vote in midterms in local elections
and if after they lose where do they go where do we go
to trump tower and then and then what
's a matta baby?
this is what america looks like.
Haiku for a Faraway Valentine 1:
Forget your helmet?
It's cool. Wrap me around you
And I'll keep you safe.
Haiku for a Faraway Valentine 2:
We have potential:
Why I still imagine us
Haiku for a Faraway Valentine 3:
With your kiss. I wanna shrink
My carbon footprint.
Wilkommen zu Weimerica!
When fascism comes to America,
it will be wrapped in the flag
and carrying a cross.
- attributed to Sinclair Lewis
SURPRISE! I'm here.
You don't recognize me? Ah, the get-up.
Well, if I had been wearing a swastika
Or a bed sheet, I'm pretty sure
You wouldn't have opened the door.
Nope, sorry, too late!
I'm already inside, see?
I just pierced your zona pellucida.
You'd know what I was talking about
If your legislators hadn't abstained
From funding your education.
Your place is nice: Recliner, liquor cabinet, flat-screen...
Oh my gosh! You even have cable!
Oh yes, we will be quite comfortable.
I invited some friends, I hope you won't mind.
Terror, Tyranny, Torture, etc.
You might have seen them on TV?
Don't worry, I'll acquaint you.
Don't be surprised if they act like the British
Way back when. I take that back. The British
Weren't as bad. You'll just have to adjust,
Which reminds me: I have to deliver
A decree. It's heaven-sent,
[By the order of His Divinity,
The Constitution shall be henceforth
Abolished, and all pursuant "rights"
The three branches of government are to be
Hewn and burned for kindling,
Along with the Library of Congress'
His Divinity hereby baptizes America
Anew and newly christens it
Humbly, His Divinity has volunteered
To serve as the conduit between
The Word of God and
The Execution of HIS Will. To that end,
His Divinity commissions the Not-So-Secret Police
To begin gathering non-citizens, non-believers,
Degenerates, traitors, trouble-makers,
Latent criminals, and other suspect persons
In preparation for out-processing.
His Divinity shall issue further directives
As He receives them from the LORD.
Let these commands be so enacted.]
Did you get all that?
I hope you're a fast learner, for your sake.
His Divinity has little love for laggards,
And He considers mercy the province
There's the buzzer. Right on time.
Come on in, guys! Door's open.
Well, don't just stand there;
Make us some snacks!
And don't you dare cry.
You saw us coming.
You have cable.
It Is My Sad Duty To Report...
A response to our response to the WDBJ Shooting
This evening, it is my sad duty to report that this morning
It was Alison Parker and Adam Ward's sad duty to report.
At about 6:45 AM, shots disrupted their newscast,
Leaving them dead and a woman wounded.
As this is a developing story, there is much that we do not know.
The authorities continue to investigate and ask anyone with a lead to step forward.
Reaction to this spectacle has been swift.
The Editor-in-Chief at WDBJ has issued a press release.
The Commander-in-Chief has expressed his condolences.
The families have called on the media to stop calling on them.
A spokesman for the NRA regrets
That they went out into the field
Armed with only a microphone and a camera.
In the spirit of bipartisanship
Democrats and Republicans
In both the House and Senate
Have put aside petty partisan politics
And taken the brave step
Of affixing ribbons to their lapels.
House Democrats have put forward a proposal to replace the ribbons
Saying that they are threadbare from overuse.
But Senate Republicans, citing the cost,
Have pledged to filibuster the motion.
This just in:
We now have word that the shooter
Has chosen to face the Reaper
Rather than face the music.
However, the media will make sure to publish his manifesto
And debate his mental state
And interrogate his tearful parents
Who will point to a photograph on their mantelpiece
Of him in his black graduation gown holding his diploma.
"You must be mistaken", they will say, "That's not the boy we raised."
We are confident his story will become history.
We can't say the same for his victims.
But let's try anyway.
Our sources tell us that they were loved;
Both were planning weddings;
Both had bright futures.
We know that this morning they were up before dawn,
We imagine they each straggled out of their beds,
Taking care not to wake up their partners
As they stumbled in the dark.
We can neither confirm nor deny that they brushed their teeth
But we might suppose that they gazed in the mirror
And wondered at their reflections.
We know they got dressed, but not in what order they assembled their appearance.
Perhaps Ms. Parker pressed a heel to her foot before lowering her blouse.
Mr. Ward could have tied his shoe before cinching his belt.
It's possible their partners woke up to kiss them goodbyeIt's possible they didn't. No word on whether they had breakfast.
As they drove to the station, they might have blasted Oldies
Or sung along to today's top hits
Or considered all things on NPR.
Maybe they weren't ready to engage the world,
Preferring instead to turn off their radios
Roll down their windows
And listen to the stillness of the night.
We can't ever know;
So little of life is recorded live.
It is a reporter's sad duty to appear objective;
To erase their presence from the report
As if their words don't always bear the shape of their tongues,
As if their fingerprints don't still linger on their keyboard keys;
To tell the story,
Not become it.
It is a reporter's sad duty to break the news
Knowing that the news might break them.
But they do not hesitate to follow the sirens to the fire
Because they know we depend on them to find its cause.
In related news, it appears that the Chinese government's
Failure to regulate Ruihui Logistics
Enabled them to build a stockpile of dangerous chemicals
Close to densely populated areas in Tianjin,
Ultimately placing civilians in harm's way
When the explosion occurred.
The government denies involvement.
Survivors turned to Tianjin Television for information,
Only to find that their news reports had been replaced with soap operas.
A poem dedicated to those who interrupt ignorance.
Actually, I happen to like my hair.
My cowlicks remind me of the first shoots of grass
In a community garden,
Unassuming though undeniable proof that teamwork works.
Yes, I do have friends
And they as varied and gorgeous and plentiful
As the flowers that kept Monet company during his creative dry spells;
When he stared at his blank canvas
Like a California farmer scanning a cloudless sky for signs of rain.
As it happens, some of my friends are black
Also, some are women,
Some are queer;
In fact, some check all the boxes on the census
Whereas others deconstruct boxes as a concept,
Crushing them like empty cartons of cardboard
So later they can be transformed into something useful.
I'm sorry but I don't speak for others
When I speak for myself
And I don't mind anyone's business,
But my own; Which is
To be mindful of everyone's humanity
And to weed out ignorance and intolerance
With my trusty spade of graphite
Even when my hands become so calloused from the battle
That it pains me to keep hold of the handle.
Still, I dig;
Knowing that others are digging beside me,
Bathing the roots in their sweat,
Sunning the leaves with their hope.
Do you wonder how our garden came to be so beautiful?
Come closer and I'll whisper our secret in your ear.
(First, seed the earth with acts of kindness.
Then, nourish them with care.
Talk often to your sprouts, they wilt from inattention.
Be there for them and they will be there for you.
Above all, be patient. Your commitment will bear fruit eventually.)
And that's it! That's all. So you see? You too can have a garden.
Oh! This is my stop. One more word before I go;
Don't wait to grow old before you grow up.
Should you delay, come Harvest-time
You will arrive with your basket
And find only dust to reap.
An erotic poem for Indigenous People's Day
"Columbus", you did not discover me.
My mouth has long known foreign tongues
As many men have docked in the harbor of my arms
And with their fingers traced all my contours
Along the trembling Andes that stretch
From the isthmus of my neck down to my lowest extremities,
Inking my features on the maps of their memories.
"Cortés", beware! I am unconquerable.
Though you force yourself upon me,
Though you plague me with abuse,
I will never be your possession.
The mind is infertile soil for imperial ideas
And the heart, like the wind, eludes mastery.
I speak from experience. So many of my past explorers
Strewn by spirit of adventure throughout the world
Now embrace other port-of-calls.
Sometimes I dream I see their sails
Rising from the horizon like so many suns;
"Home to me!" I cry as I make ready to meet them
Though I know they are merely mirages
Formed of clouds and nostalgic twilights.
"Prospero", I am no virgin island,
No place to test your bombs or ideas of utopia.
Knowing this, if still you seek El Dorado, be advised
To chart the course of your predecessors:
Treasure not my continent's contents.
Rather honor its customs, learn its tongue,
Marvel its wonders, concede its deity.
Pursue this path and the way will clear
To your desired destination
Where your arrival will be welcomed
And welcome will be your arrival.