Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.
— From “The Stalin Epigram” by Osip Mandelstam
Have you no sense of decency, sir?— Joseph Welch
I write to you from a cell in which I’ve locked
myself inside and given you the key, more as a symbol
than anything else since I know you would let me go
for now, but where would I go? Where would I be?
Behind a wall you’re building on the very soil
that’s supposed to welcome “the huddled masses”
at its “golden door”? But that’s not free. I hear witnesses
in the silence that archives their voices. See how
they come back to me like birds to a favorite tree,
this one in particular from the martyred poet
and courage teacher, Osip Mandelstam: “No longer
can I feel the ground beneath me.” Every tyrant resurrects
like the last with a different face but same hard heart.
So they have recrudesced in you and made us sick
again with a germ called mad. Called mean.
“Whenever there’s a snatch of talk,” Osip said
to his executioner, “it turns to the Kremlin Mountaineer
who pokes out his finger and alone goes boom.”
You make a similar gesture with your little hand,
Herr President, forming an o with your forefinger
and thumb whenever you lie or traduce someone,
and also whenever there’s a “snatch of talk” or “tweet”
from you, it turns in a flash to the Mar-a-Lago Financier,
which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “The Man
of Steel”, but the similarity to “Uncle Joe” is so
unnerving, I think you should know. I think it’s a sign.
I think you’re channeling “Ivanov”. The question
that Mr. Welch inquired 70 years ago of another Joe
and your mentor, the infamous Mr. Cohn, was so
rhetorical, it resonates still because I’m asking you
the same right now. Because no matter how
you rhyme with those who’ve shown a similar lack,
you’ve built a wall inside your soul with your brand
at the top in such giant letters they are so small.
Copyright 2017 Chard deNiord