Thursday, June 25, 2015

State of Affairs (Poem)

State of Affairs

We don't have Bed-Ins
in this country anymore.

Lennon's gone, and Iraq without
Saddam is our latest Vietnam.

Instead of Agent Orange, there's
chlorine gas in the barrel bombs,

and drones get named Raven,
Dragon Eye, Tarantula Hawk,

as if all the animals were doing
the world's killing. Millennials run

off to join ISIS; a kosher grocery
on the outskirts of Paris is laid waste.

Serbia declares, We will not close
up and live in Auschwitz, because

Hungary decides to put up a fence
to keep the illegal migrants out.

Not even the Mediterranean Sea is
dangerous enough to stop the boats

that carry the thousands that flee
the countries that traffic in crime.

Here at home, we test our children
more than the cars we buy and drive,

dispute global warming and climate
change while the Arctic ice melts,

ban books on controversial issues
and let hide out the priests who use

the bodies of boys for their pleasure.
We believe in civil and human rights

then twist hands when cops choke
the breath out of a 350-pound man

or take down and put a knee in
the back of a teen in a bikini. Now

that we've gotten past Columbine,
Sandy Hook, Aurora, watched

Baltimore burn, coined a hashtag
#BlackLivesMatter, nine blacks

praying and studying the Bible are
shot dead—and a Confederate flag

still flies high over their state capitol.
Race is a deep fault line in America,

Hillary says. It's history! Tomorrow
the Facebook crowd already will have

moved on, set up their grills, signed
their Hallmark cards for Father's Day.

© June 20, 1015 Maureen E. Doallas

When I wrote this poem, the Confederate flag, symbol of hatred, repression, and oppression, had become the issue of the day. South Carolina's governor has called for the flag to be taken down, though it flies still, even as murdered state senator Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Mother Emanuel, lies in state in the capitol building; Alabama's governor has ordered removal of Confederate banners, and Virginia's governor has announced plans to phase out the symbol on state license plates. Some retailers (Walmart, Amazon, Sears, eBay) have vowed to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise. Our National Park Service also has issued a voluntary request to stop sales of flags and related products by its partners and affiliates. Let's be clear: This is the least that can be done. All these actions are politically expedient. Ban the flag, lower it forever, put it in a history museum, stop making and selling items that bear that despicable symbol—but don't claim any of these steps will dispel the hatred and racism that reside in too many American hearts. And don't just move on. We all have a lot of work to do. 

As the late Jake Adam York wrote in his poem "Vigil" in Murder Ballads (Elixir Press, 2005):

[. . .] Let the crucible door open like a mouth
and speak its bloom of light, molten and new.

Let me stand in its halo. Let me stand
as it pours out its stream of suns.

Let me gather and hold it like a brother.
And let it burn.

1 comment:

Peggy Rosenthal said...

Wow. Magnificent. I'd sure like to hear this poem read as a President's State of the Union address!