Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Doug Anderson: The Dictator

To the memory of Eduardo Galeano


He built a wall around himself and demanded

that his image be painted on the inside of the wall

looking back so he could imagine the shouts

on the outside were cheers for him,

but something about the teargas seeping into

his bunker made him uncomfortable

so he built another wall around the first,

and another after that to push the shouting

further away, and then yet another.

I will push them into the sea, he thought.

And then he had statues built within the walls–

of himself and other dictators he admired.

But the pigeons covered them with shit

so he had all the pigeons poisoned

and the statues polished to a high sheen.

But the rain and corroding elements of the air

darkened and stained the statues 

and he raged against God. He had himself

painted as the new God and was seen waving

a book around that held all his pronouncements

about who should be smitten, who stoned.

But the shouting would not stop 

so he brought in his army to suppress them

with bayonets and tanks. But the army

divided into those who would and those

who wouldn’t brutalize the protesters so he

brought in mercenaries faithful only to him

who began swinging their cudgels 

and spraying gas. But the shouting didn’t stop

and he began to hear noises, beneath him,

and trembling in the rock strata underneath

the palace. He became afraid. 

There was a crack in the floor and a head appeared.

He recognized him as a tyrant famous

for murdering journalists. He said, “Run,

they are coming for you. Run.” And then

another tyrant famous for torturing people in his prisons

emerged from the hole. “Run,” he said, “it is over.”

A third emerged carrying his head under his arm,

“they will take you to the guillotine, run.”

They kept coming till there was no room left

in the dictator’s bunker. They were running out 

of air and suffocating: “I can’t breathe,”

he shouted. “I can’t breathe!”

Copyright 2020 Doug Anderson

Faith Ringgold, 1967. (photo by Doug Anderson)

10 comments on “Doug Anderson: The Dictator

  1. Gayle Lauradunn
    June 6, 2020

    Excellent! This poem will definitely be one that defines this era.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrea Leigh Ptak
    June 6, 2020

    A terrifying bedtime story for our times. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    June 6, 2020

    And Picasso painted Guernica.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kennethrosenpoet
    June 6, 2020

    Great poem. Doug. Greatness is humane, much deeper than clever, which is the light bouncing off the seas frozen inside us. I take my point d’appui from Barbara Huntingdon’s praise, from which I chased down her piece on a Zen retreat, which I found gratifying too, stumbling in body and mind these days, this overwhelming, visible and invisible, natural and political, seemingly motionless as a drill bit at top speed. Quite impressed by Faith Ringgold’s painting. Great poem.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Barbara Huntington
    June 6, 2020

    Even the sadness and the hate provides compost for the growth of great poetry. This one feels like it will be the one students and poets read 100 years from now as literature that defines an era yet echoes all eras.

    Liked by 2 people

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