Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Farewell to Bush in Verse

We have a new president! I remember when he was took office during my sophomore year of high school, and I thought to myself "I can't believe this guy is going to run the country until after I've graduated." Then he took a second term when I was a sophomore in college and I got to say the same thing all over again. Now there's nothing foreseeable through which the Obama presidency will lead me, but it's so nice to have a change, and to see the end of an awful, awful era.
To that end, I've been writing a poem of farewell each day, and sending them to Marc Maron and Break Room Live. They were all pretty hasty, but any motivation is good enough for me. Here's all of them. Maron did read one of them on the webcast, though I think it was the worst of the lot.


Tough luck, Bush, your legacy's sunk,
Though into our history you've slunk.
But you should be in jail,
Or out hunting quail
With Cheney, blindfolded and drunk.

Double Dactyl:

Higgeldy Piggeldy
President Dubaya
Leaving the country in
Rampant decay
Yells of his righteousness
After the lawyers have
Put him away.



The Republican party under Bush
Heroically sat on its tush
Because it hadn't gotten dark yet –
So said the free market.


President Dubaya
Did not want to trouble ya
To sacrifice or learn,
So he let the world burn.

Sonnet on the Tongues of Shoes

From all my people, here's this gift to you.
And thousands more just like it lay in wait
To praise that your destruction here is through,
And shower you with symbols of our hate.

Will you accept it standing, knowing shame,
You killer of Iraqis, of our young?
Or will you stoop so low, deflecting blame
That we shall know you not from dirt and dung?

This is your farewell kiss, you dog, you swine -
A love note I pray God more men expand,
Which your own people ought read line by line
For all those signers they might understand:

The widows and the orphans of Iraq;
Men's hearts that in your shadow turn to black.

Change of Tone

It seems, sometimes, as though
I haven't laughed in years
In times when things meant to amuse
Were all too serious for me.

And the worst of the world on my TV
I could barely stand to think about
But if I did, then everything
Could trace right back to you

But Tuesday, can I breathe anew
Or muster laughter once again
To greet relief, and to greet this
A day I thought at times I'd never see?

Yes, now I'll try to laugh you out of office,
And then, thereafter, out of history.


I have waited for your shadow
To rise once more, and then depart,
Even since the moment when
It heralded this era's start.

And I naively thought that we
Could stand our ground while you beset
The nation with your fatal edicts,
Which, in time, we could forget.

But I am older now, and wonder
How I could ever say goodbye
Knowing that your ghost will haunt me,
Perhaps until the day I die?

I see you in all things I hate to see
I hate to see all things you've shown to me.
I see you clear in poverty and grief,
In war, and hatred, and corrupt belief.

I see your eyes, tight closed and dreaming,
In the face of each child who
Has been kept so poor in learning
By schools made still more poor by you.

I see your finger gesture crudely
Disregarding truth and law
And siding with each damned fool who
Mistakes vague thoughts for things he saw.

I hear your voice, persistent, prickling
On my ear its priggish tones
When paranoia rises, clicking
Through once-friendly telephones.

I know the anger, mine and others',
At growing poorer hour on hour,
And think of you and how depression
Has made my sweet friends' lives more sour.

I see vets on dark street corners,
Haggard, wounded, begging, lost
Preceded by the funeral mourners
Whose numbers you dared not exhaust.

And in the distance there, I see you
Brandishing a clumsy sword
Which seeks blood blindly in your passion
Of sacrificing to your Lord.

I see the darkness of your stain
In skies whose clouds I can't discern
As reservoirs of cleansing rain
Or as your poisonous cistern.

I feel your temper in the heat
Of summer and you represent
The virus that's put Earth in fever –
A plague you think is Heaven-sent.

And you have set the benchmark high
Should others seek a legacy
Of havoc, or to incur ire
In volumes from those such as me.

How could I be so disappointed
In my fellow men
As when, twice-duped, they re-anointed
You to damn our lives again?

No, every flaw of faith or reason
Fades in presence of the show
Of foolishness and baseness chanting
"Four more years," four years ago.

And in the fear and doubt of day to day,
I remember how empowerment fled away
When, in my youth, I could not stop your war,
Or stand in the way of all you could stand for.

And I wonder if, in mirrored morning,
You can see, behind your eyes,
Even one such sight worth scorning,
Or do you love what we despise?

And was it just enough for you, then,
To sit and gloat on what you'd won,
Retire, looking satisfied,
And bid farewell, the damage done?

Imagine Justice

Please retire from public life,
Mr. President.
Because if I don't see you again,
There are a million places
I can imagine fate has sent you.

Surely fate sees that strife
In the present
Returns in future to the men
Who left it as the traces
Of carelessness at what they do.

And if you should vanish,
Perhaps you've gone
To fight a war where fate has sent you
Under-equipped and unclear
Of reason or aim.

And fate then can banish
American dawn
From your eyes and the world you view
With a new sense of fear,
A new respect for pain.

Or fate might take your money,
Leave you poor,
Begging at the feet of princes
Who mock you and believe
They know the world.

And would you find it funny –
Would you want more
Of the humility only this evinces?
Or would you yourself deceive,
And play victim to your world?

A Ballade of Farewell

You accept no blame, feel no remorse,
And never dared admit one bare mistake,
Keeping confidence in the only course
You can accept your legacy will take.
And so you stand well clear of men's concern,
Insisting, self-obsessed, and stubbornly,
That what you know so well we all will learn:
Your truest judge will be our history.

But we know well the trail of tears you've led
This country down, though not how far it goes.
So on one point it's just as you have said:
Your impact's lasting reach yet no one knows.
And though you may not see, or comprehend,
Still your detractors very much agree
That as you say, and finally in the end,
Your truest judge will be our history.

We all expect to feel gratified,
That what we fought, or what we fought for, wins.
But the greater weight of your sick pride
Cannot outweigh the crush of all your sins.
And fast and far it reaches in the blaze
That time cannot outrun, nor you, nor we,
But burns clear through the old myopic haze.
Your truest judge will be our history.

Once a prince, now taken down in notes,
Still baffled by the growing enmity,
And though your ego on itself just dotes,
Your truest judge will be our history.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Sharp Criticism"

Here’s an interesting bit of copy from today’s New York Times:

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported finding what it called shocking scenes on Wednesday, including four emaciated children next to the bodies of their dead mothers. In a rare and sharply critical statement, it said that “the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care and evacuate the wounded.”

You know, I think that remaining markedly silent in ordinary or barely exceptional circumstances is marvelously productive of breaking points. The less you speak, the more weight your voice tends to carry when it is raised. And what’s more, the less frequently you are inclined to speak, the more confidence you can have in the significance of a subject that forces language from your lips. I think it is largely because of the strength of my belief in those sentiments that I often find I grow frustrated with myself whenever I go on speaking too long, or get mired in idle talk. I flirt with the idea of vows of silence, which would promise me time enough to reflect on would-be words, and avoid the mistake of speaking too soon and too carelessly. But then I worry. I worry because it is easy to imagine the dire tragedy of reflecting so long, then opening your mouth again to say only “I haven’t learned anything.”

Worse than never seeking one’s breaking point is building toward it, only to lose grip of the object of it, to miss the sight of its power. That, I fear, is the circumstance the Red Cross has come to, with this empty statement, and the New York Times should be ashamed of its use of such strong and beautiful adjectives in grossly mischaracterizing it. A “rare” statement perhaps it was – if the organization keeps to the habit of not speaking out for the people on behalf of whom it ostensibly works, then yes, any statement whatsoever that it makes is technically a rare one. But by no reasonably objective measure can the above words be termed “sharply critical.” To say that the Israeli military “failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law” is the geopolitical equivalent of reprimanding a subordinate in one’s workplace for not filling out the forms deemed necessary by office policy. It carries little more emotional and moral weight than does accusing someone of a traffic violation, which, while illegal and potentially dangerous, is by no means barbarous and roundly detestable.

No, a “rare and sharply critical statement” would be to say that the Israeli military is personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocents; that it is guilty of murder – wholesale murder that with each stage of escalation more closely verged on the genocidal. It would a rare, sharply critical statement to say the Israeli military has come to the endpoint of transforming itself into the monster it thought it was fighting. Statements like these are sharp criticisms. Statements like these are proper to the events that, pray God, have left the region now, and they are the sorts of statements that normally silent parties such as – I suppose – international relief organizations should make when next they feel compelled toward the point of breaking their silence.