Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
Even in dreams, I fail to recognize these men.
They are white blurs, edgeless, still talking.
They turn rivers into sludge. Eagles into silica;
air to lead. I wake up, gasping. The winter stars
are runes I try to read. Another inscrutable light.
Fifty days in. Sixty. A half year gone. Every new decree,
I’m mad in the wreck of dismantling.
We gather in streets and call them out.
Call them liars. Call them death.
Oceans turn to oil. Rhinos to dust.
Meadows, to fault lines and quakes.
Rockwell’s small Americana town rocks in
its aftershocks, an apocalypse of the undead. No.
The dead. Opiates for all. Healthcare denied.
Even in dreams, I fail
to recognize these men. They are unholy;
they are full of holes. They turn on one another,
piss their secrets into urinals between them,
a pestilence. A plague. Locusts descend.
Black flies. And from the mouths of flowers,
dead bees spill. Rain pulverizes everything.
Again, I wake. Outside, the winter stars
are speared on tines of forks and eaten
at the trendy bistros with a soupcon of roe.
I sleep. And truth stirs, merciless in the shadows,
shakes me wild again. The gravestones near
a synagogue are all knocked down. Young men set fire
to a mosque. They’re hot for hellfire, hard for ashes.
Even in my dreams, these men have already died
inside. Their tongues are rasped and hang out, old dogs.
They are a master class on how to snuff out everything
worth living for: This beautiful child. This neighbor
from another land. This art. This sea. This wilderness.
The sky, already shred from all their brandishing,
empties now across our land.
Author’s Note: I want to say a word about the origin of this poem. Obviously, it is driven by this last election and the unbelievable horror of having put Trump and his cronies in the White House. And the callous–worse than callous–destructive attitudes of so many Republicans now serving in the House and Senate, where they refuse to see the implications of what they are doing to the earth, in their mad pursuit of the almighty dollar. But, it’s larger than that for me: we have been abusing and killing the earth in so many ways for so long. And for so long, we are encouraged, cajoled, convinced that as a single individual, we can change the world by recycling our garbage, by turning off our lights, by buying an electric car. I am all for all of these things; I think it’s important that, as loving citizens of this earth, we play our role, but I am also suspicious of that message of “you only can make this difference!” that we are bombarded with day in and day out. Why? Because if we become convinced that our individual steps are all it takes, we become lulled into inaction. We fail to look up at the corporations who grow fat on profits, while they spill their toxins into our air and water, or tear down rainforests or cut the heads of mountains to mine. We don’t coalesce as huge groups and go after the ever-so-greedy corporations that make plastic, that spill toxins in our water supply, that frack the earth until it shakes from earthquakes it never exhibited before, that tear up each and every precious wilderness that’s left upon this earth. One of the reasons I started thinking about this is because I noticed that few Pittsburghers complain about our air quality, which has been poor since I moved here in the 1980’s. (I used to work for an environmental group called the Center for Environmental Oncology. This group disseminated information, based on scientific research, which linked environmental toxins to cancers. It was there that my eyes were open to how blind we are to the polluters around us. And how, imagining that we are doing enough by separating our newspapers from the rest of our trash, we fail to demand more for our public health and for our beautiful earth.)
Poem and author’s note copyright 2017 Sharon Fagan McDermott