Poetry for the Election Season

Give us water and food to pursue our tasks. 
Help us not become wards of the state, 
impoverished, homeless, destitute, crushed 
under the heel, buried in systems, imprisoned, 
dead, hospitalized. We die die die. Our dogs 
will not walk themselves after we go. Our bodies 
will not burn themselves after we go. Our apartments 
will not pack themselves after we die. Instead, 
bright ribbons of work, tangled in our bodies, 
will be vomited out and indeed bright ribbons 
will be vomited out. In the meantime, 
the light’s eyelashes open and close. 
And in the meantime, work and reprieve. 
Lie down; don’t lie; lie flat; lie still. See these 
Books bound in itching white leather? They are
your life. And each feathery page, lifted by hot wind. 
O summer air, o gardens, o seasons ô châteaux. 

The glaring day, it binds, o occurrence, o soil o soul.


Today I heard this poem from the podcast Poetry off the Shelf (“Extreme Exposure“). It begins in a prayerful manner, petitioning that one does not get caught up in the unjust prison system or to be marginalized as the homeless. It then transitions to focus on death, ‘bright ribbons will be vomited out,’ and how possibly our lives are like books ‘lifted by hot wind.’ Or how possibly that we are buried in ‘o soil o soul’ and books represent our stories which will continue way beyond our existence? Either way, this poem is fantastic and can be interpreted in many many ways. 


It feels appropriate too that we hear/read this poem in an election season. It’s not that electing someone new into the White House or Congress might actually change our imperial politics as usual. But that for those of us who work for a more peaceful and just world, we don’t want to be “wards of the state”or “die die die” while our utopic visions are unfulfilled and someone else has to walk our dogs. Honestly, Turkey has been on my mind, and their dictator locking up and/or killing hundreds of “people whom he assumes is against him,” is a reality I fear. While it may never happen in the US, although we certainly lock up people who release information about the US that shows our imperial nature, it doesn’t make us look good to be supportive of countries who do such acts or even help with such acts (i.e. School of the Americans, Salvador Allende, etc.).


a change of rulers

My hope is that we continue to be granted “food and water to pursue our tasks” for new realities where everyone is housed, with full bellies, and communities where you care for your neighbors. 

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