Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Trials

Are you prepared to make the bullshit flow?
To tie your twisted logic in a knot?
Are you prepared to not know what you know
And say it's principle that you forgot?
How easy is it for you to pretend
That what is politic is also right?
Or to advance and heartily defend
A cause that ought to keep you up at night?
Can you stick to a lie despite all facts
And yell at volume that the truth is lies?
Can you forgive despotic, deadly acts
As if their consequences were surprise?
If so, my friend, I know where you will be:
Within the Senate's new minority.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Following

One thing I know is there are always rules.
They may not be explicit holy writ
But they are always there. Their presence cools
Hot tempers and makes sure we all can fit
Together. But the rules can only function
If everyone knows something of their law;
You cannot follow an unknown injunction
And secrecy will be a major flaw.
Therefore I seek to name and to declare
The rules I see at work in every place;
For just as certain as I am they're there,
I find that others' doubts may bring disgrace.
But if you know the rules better than I
Please tell me so, and I will hear, and try.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Letters

I have to know; I must admit
When listening to Dr. King
I am the whitest moderate
He ever spoke of. That's the thing
We seem to always, now, forget:
That he was not only a dream.
His expectations had been set
By Jesus, and so often seem
Beyond mere mortals. But they're not:
They're possible, just not with ease.
They can't be cheated, skipped, or bought
And many of them will not please
The multitude. But they are needed:
A call I have left too unheeded.

Friday, January 15, 2021

A More Perfect Union

We must and shall have unity, of course;
This is a union, so it is required.
But not the unity the mob desired
Of their delusions realized by force:
The rest of us have backed another horse,
And must insist that theirs will be retired
The fear and the division he inspired
Have brought us to the point of this divorce.
We shall unite, but only through the toil
Of true, exact accountability:
With consequences for the ones who roil
The surface of our dear democracy
We do not hold with chants of "blood and soil":
A union without fascists it must be.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Rousing Speeches

I would not care if Trump had been a god
Sent down from heaven to govern the nation
A paragon unequaled and unflawed
George Washington's improved reincarnation
A blessing on us all in every way
Who vanquished Covid and brought wealth to all
Whose words and thoughts had never run astray
And never faltered at the nation's call
If he had done as he has done. Who cares
What his accomplishments may be, if he
In public view against our trust still dares
To call in question our democracy?
These weak defenses of his public crimes
Are symbols of our fast decaying times.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Political Poetry and the Current Moment

Right now I find myself thinking a lot about the nexus between politics and poetry. Of course there is always been political poetry appearing on this blog; I've always written political poetry in general. But there is something I think in this particular moment (and as I write this that moment is the moment of the aftermath of an armed insurrection against the United States capital; and I say armed advisory because besides guns there were pipe bombs were found in connection with the RNC and DNC) that invites poetry. Not just because there are in fact a number of poetry magazines and other venues that are asking for poems about this thing, but because there is something about a shock to the system like this that does not want to be understood solely through prose or through theater or through any other genre. Now when I say a shock to the system I don't mean necessarily that this came as a surprise. We have known for a while that there was inflammatory rhetoric, lots and lots of inflammatory rhetoric, in the American political system (in particular from Donald Trump). We have known, if we were paying attention, that there was a good chance of that coming to a head precisely on January 6th. But I mean a shock to the system in the sense of something that has not happened before or that if it has happened before has had serious consequences before, and that has serious implications for quote unquote everyday life as we know it. So in this case this was a shock to the system not because no one could see it coming but because normalcy, something that people have been trying to quote unquote regain for pretty much all of Donald Trump's presidency, is deeply threatened by these actions.
And I think that there is something about that, about that idea, that is demanding of poetry. Poetry at its best speaks to the thoughts and desires that we cannot express properly in other fora. One thing that I try to do, but don't always succeed in doing, in my poetry is to write a poem because a poem feels like it needs to be written and not because I just had a thought that I could have expressed in some other way. There is something about the heightened nature of a poem that does not necessarily insist on world altering events as a topic but that is most useful when it is applied to something difficult to express. I suggest that this moment is such a moment. This moment calls on these sorts of techniques for expressing our feelings about it.
Of course I do not mean that all the people who are writing prose about this or dialogues or any other media are somehow failing to meet the moment. I mean that in addition to all of that poetry is called for. I mean that in order to properly meet this moment we and I (and that all sounds very self-centered so let me just say societies as a whole) need poetry.
I (and if you read this blog you will not be surprised to hear this) think that in some ways it demands not just poetry but traditional forms of poetry. One thing that I have realized for myself at least in the last four years is that when the forces that are at play that seem most threatening and most dire claim for themselves the mantle of conservatism there is a positive and affirmative value in using traditional small C conservative techniques and values to argue against them. Sonnets, rhyme, meter, and all of the other attendant elements that make up traditional poetry in the Western tradition such as certain imagery and certain rhetorical techniques and so on are all strong weapons in this particular fight, or they should be. So there is a benefit of value to writing political poetry but also specifically political traditional poetry and for the purposes of this blog political sonnets.
That means you should expect to see some political sonnets on this blog. It also means that if I have the time (and given that the world is a madhouse I both have all the time in the world and none of it) you may see some analysis of past political sonnets on this blog. But the takeaway I want to have for this particular post is that it is the right and proper thing to respond to moments like this not just with impeachment, criminal charges, or a renewed resolve to use the organs of government for good, but also with poetry. Poetry has an affirmative value for helping people process express and understand the troubled times, the hard times and (of course we hope to return to) the good times.

On Self-Pardons, to Donald Trump

You cannot grant what you desire:
Self-dealing is forbidden here.
And though you've heaped your funeral pyre
You cannot leap your own way clear.
A pardon is a thing you grant
And grants are given but to others
Your pardon me protect your aunt
Your uncle, children, sisters, brothers
But what a pardon cannot do
No matter how much you may try
Is be applied by you to you
"I pardon" only starts with I.
So rest assured you'll do your time
When prosecuted for this crime.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Winter Snows

The snow falls softly on the icy ground
And I am sure it will not be the last;
I do not know how much it has amassed
But still it falls in freckles all around.
I keep on waiting for a subtle sound
To tell me that the winter storm has passed
But it sweeps on, implacable and vast,
And silent wind on windows starts to pound.
Watching from within, it feels familiar
As in the old pathetic fallacy
Where all the world exists but to fulfill your
Imagined woes, whatever they may be.
Thus as the snow piles up, so love increases
And like the storm, it seems it never ceases.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Urban Mysteries

The streets at night are never dead;
They may be empty, but the beat
Of echoing footsteps, and the heat
From long-left tires means instead
They twitch and burn in infrared.
The day is always incomplete;
Only the lamps can make the street
Become itself, when it can shed
The humdrum ordinariness
Of the commuters. What is left
Behind, and what emerges then
Is a beatific, beauteous mess.
I hate the daybreak for its theft
Until the dusk brings it again.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Spies

I have I will admit some doubts
About the whole affair. I know
I don't know all the ins and outs
Of how this sort of thing should go
And so I might be eating crow
After all is said and done
But when I think about it: no,
I think ends as it's begun.
I cannot be the only one
For whom this story stinks to hell
And when the race is finally run
I think that you'll all know as well:
The truth is but a little seed
That may be ground when there is need.