Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
I remember the night my friend and I tried to get a poet arrested
for his crimes against literature, his hiding
of horribly sentimental lines by speaking like a seller
of cheap real estate, those broken down houses
where everything and everyone leaks, in neighborhoods
divided by the tornado roar of long, slow trains, night and day.
It was just poetry, I know, words arranged like a landscape
of dark trees against the, whatever, azure sky,
but why should he escape punishment like the stealers
of poor people’s minority fortunes, the rule makers
who make us break our backs at hard labor
while they sit up high in penthouse suites
eating their feasts, drinking the best wine,
as they sneer at the riff-raff drawing heavy strings
and pushing square wheels along concrete floors
in the moldy basement, thump thump?
We called the police. “There he is,” I said,
“at the corner of State and East Washington,
ready to recite his deceptive verse. Take him.”
But they didn’t understand our soundness,
didn’t consider this criminal activity worthy of arrest,
as flagrant action against the laws they were paid
to uphold, defend, and protect. We argued,
we pleaded; they explained, they turned silent,
they hung up, believing they’d arranged the letters
of the law to the best of their abilities.
Because we couldn’t get the poet arrested
my friend walked around for years wearing
loose blue muscle shirts, his head bobbing
down and up through all the thick slabs of winters,
the thin white lines of summer, looking right, looking left,
grimacing what the fuck? to anyone passing close
enough to hear and refusing to listen.
These days I sit on park benches in the bright daylight,
enduring all manner of slurs and imprecations
and the endless spinning of the earth,
humming an old tune from my youth,
and thinking of all the different words for stone.
Photograph by Jose Padua