Short Takes: Poetry (Activism)

Citizens United


It seems they are people now: the Court has deemed it—
Chevron, Aetna, Halliburton, even BP—
embodied, ensouled, enthroned like you and me,
with all good rights pursuant. Who’d have dreamed it?

Endowed with all the necessary features,
we wonder whether the package includes a heart—
that passionate pump, that beating, bleeding part
of whatever defines us best as human creatures.

And given such vitals, might they fall in love?
(the lift, the missed beat at the chosen face,
the sudden tug of the familiar place)
And might they then know loss, and might they grieve

to see the clouded eye, the boarded door,
the flightless gulls mired in the blackening shore.




Each morning, that March before the election,
the phones, faxes started percolating well
before the French Roast.

We were the guys on the Good Side –
the side of Truth –
which we told mostly
except with a few things left out:
We’ll show how they sold out the school lease …
We’ll tell why they manufactured Measure F …
We’ll expose the bastards who own them …

By April, we’d become unbeatable –
buoyed by the benediction
of our common anger, we’d grown together
like a new skin,
the seams of our old imperfect lives
healed over, whole.

So when we heard the first returns
election night, victory pealing
from all six corners of the city, we cheered,
we wept, we hugged one another
like countrymen at the end
of a long winter siege,

but in the morning, waking alone
in our separate selves, the world
seemed altered, strangely vacant.

What, after all, would we do with our lives, now —
the last bright coin
of our outrage spent?


Finally, Justice


I used to have a country-song love of the open road,
back when I married for the love of civil rights, for
the love of a farmer’s boy who loved that road, when
we were from Atlanta and lawyers for the poor, and
painted my office lavender, when the children were
young, before cars were air-conditioned and the world
was burning up, so we’d roll down our windows, and
didn’t mind sweating, hair blowing behind us like
Thelma and Louise before they sped off the cliff,

and we drove where wild horses fed on sea oats grass, past
towns built on sand, where reclaimed couches and seized
homes backlit magnolias’ brash blooms, back when you
were trying to keep Warren McClesky from being
executed for a white cop’s death, and Warren maintained
his innocence: that disarming smile, white jail garb
on a man who’d found Jesus, become a prison preacher¬.

Back then, we counted on the heat smell, the way we drove
in South Georgia for days past the Okefenokee’s mangrove
swamps, its trees with stout trunks like a child’s sturdy legs,
past our past, past little towns where I was sure being a lawyer
would be romantic, and there would be a storefront and a wooden
sign with my name on it across from the ante-bellum courthouse.
And this time, I swear, we will save Warren.



[For Occupy Everywhere]


How will I sleep or write of herons?

Waking shreds to
meat torn in a wildcat’s worried claw.

When I remember you, my breath tears
there between your banners,

tatters to join your walk. If I remember
what I know of plenty and of empty,

prowl across scars,
how will I sleep, or write of herons?

Leaps cut down curled red on the bright,
road blood that moves in its breeze   —be

safe this day,
friends, don’t curl and don’t be killed

not this day, not after. There will be
cold wakings when your fist will haunt all

sleep. When the dun silence will leave. I mean to
watch you if ever I cannot walk with you.

This side of the newborn stream         there’s
no blood yet.

But let our cry
wait. Infant, in its clairvoyant’s caul.

But let our knowing—bleed.
But how can we sleep, or write of herons?

But I am without skin today.
Your drum         deeper, and going deeper in.

There is a place where the wing tears.
And there is a day when the heron stands.

And there is a river for revolution
—the hardest love, coming in.

Bring me to the river where lives begin, where
our nakedness needs no skin, bring me to

where it begins and begins. Nameless. And coming in.
At the end of the beginnings, we dressed in long light—

a hybrid body of stars—River, where the parched
heart drank her fill, hill where the unborn         climbed.