15 December 2010

Voices and Soul

14 December 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Editor

Race in America can sometimes be explained by the illusion of negative and positive space in art; where figure-ground reversal will show a vase in the positive space and the silhouetted profile of two faces in the negative. The Danish psychologist, Edgar Rubin, used this and many other examples to...

... state as a fundamental principle: When two fields have a common border, and one is seen as figure and the other as ground, the immediate perceptual experience is characterized by a shaping effect which emerges from the common border of the fields and which operates only on one field or operates more strongly on one than on the other.

Arguments abound whether Race is an issue in the post-Obama world; one is that the very fact a black man is President is example enough that America's sordid racial past has been refuted; sort of like seeing only the figure, or only the ground. A countervailing argument is that the sheer numbers of incarcerated people of color as opposed to population averages as example that Race is and will continue to be an issue; that would be perceiving the ground and the figure shifting back and forth.

In 1968, the short-fiction writer and poet, Henry Dumas, was shot and killed at the age of thirty-three by a white New York transit officer; in what was explained as a case of mistaken identity. Maybe not so mistaken, though; when the face in the negative space is black.

The Zebra Goes Wild Where the Sidewalk Ends


Neon stripes tighten my wall
where my crayon landlord hangs
from a bent nail.

My black father sits crooked
in the kitchen
drunk on Jesus’ blood turned
to cheap wine.

In his tremor he curses
the landlord who grins
from inside the rent book.

My father’s eyes are
bolls of cotton.

He sits upon the landlord’s
operating table,
the needle of the nation
sucking his soul.


Chains of light race over
my stricken city.
Glittering web spun by
the white widow spider.

I see this wild arena
where we are harnessed
by alien electric shadows.

Even when the sun washes
the debris
I will recall my landlord
hanging in my room
and my father moaning in
Jesus’ tomb.

In America all zebras
are in the zoo.

I hear the piston bark
and ibm spark:
let us program rabies.
the madness is foaming now.

No wild zebras roam the American plain.
The mad dogs are running.
The African zebra is gone into the dust.

I see the shadow thieves coming
and my father on the specimen table.

-- Henry Dumas
Voices and Soul

10 December 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

In the economic warfare that has been raging for decades, the divisions of the economic classes have widened. The rich, though a small number, hold the majority of the wealth, the middle class is shrinking, the poor are increasing in numbers and are being kicked in the gut for it.

But the Holidays are upon us and the bright twinkling lights on the 100 foot Douglas Fir in the town square draws us to the business district. Canned Holiday Music wafts from the warm interiors of department stores as shoppers look for that perfect gift. Not last year's model, of course; and certainly not some nostalgic, lead-painted toy from their youth. No, what everyone wants, what everyone seems to need, are some...

Brand New Products

A vigilant gun that always picks out
The right target—even if it’s you—
No matter who you’re aiming at.

A computer that listens and blows you,
As you blow it, to your favorite tune.

Meat that cleans your teeth
As you’re masticating it.

A truck so awesome, only the President
Of the United States of America’s allowed
To careen in it, to his own beat.

A dictionary with positive adjectives only.
A dictionary with no wet verbs.
A dictionary with negotiable definitions.
A dictionary that defines words by their antonyms.

All the greatest hits from the last millennium
Performed live, on stage, on the inside
Of your state of the art, acoustically-enhanced skull.

A complete set of nude photos
Of you, taken by you and sold
Back to you—at a discount.

A sex doll with a mirror for a face.
A sex doll with a Ph.D.
A sex doll with adjustable skin tone.

A sensitive sex doll that just wants
To be friends—a Platonic sex doll.

Rain water in a bottle, sunshine in a box
And ambience sounds from a bus stop
Down the street, recorded on a CD.

A 24-hour video of what you did yesterday.
A 24-hour video of what you’ll do tomorrow.

A super realistic photo of what’s outside
Your window, pasted to your window.

A baseball game that never ends,
To be played simultaneously with
A football game that never ends.

Cluster bombs that scatter copies of Leaves of Grass
Over a thousand mile radius, for a thousand years.

Landmines made with dough,
Topped with mozzarella and all
Your favorite toppings.

An airplane that never lands.

And, finally, your favorite fairy tale
Painted on your new plastic limbs.

-- Linh Dinh

09 December 2010

Voices and Soul

07 December 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Editor

Both of my sisters were raped by the time they were sophomores in high school. The younger one was raped twice more by the time she graduated. They don't mind that I mention these facts. They have counseled young girls and women on rape; and we all worked at rape and suicide crisis call-in centers when we were in our teens and early twenties.

Zona, is a year younger than me and put in 25 years as an RN in intensive care pediatric oncology at Children's Hospital in Orange County. She thought she was retiring, then the economy went bad. She now teaches high school science and does some private nursing. Zreata, is four years younger and was a calendar model jetting around the world until she was almost thirty. She looks like a cross between Sophia Loren and Pam Grier, so she was scantily clad in photo shoots from Malibu to Madrid. Afterwards. she was a deputy sheriff for about 7 years and later started her own bounty hunter operation. She sold the business a few years ago and now takes care of our aging mother.

I would hold them and console them during convulsive sobbing nights in our youth, both apologizing and condemning men for their brutish actions; and all the injustices we perpetuate on women. Fearing that I was failing in convincing them they were not the ones in the wrong; the one litany they both lamented was,

"What about my rights?"

Yes, what about their rights? Why is it that my sisters, my nieces, or any woman must consider what she wears, or the time of day or night, before she goes to the store? Why are women treated as spoils of war, or objects of abuse in abusive relationships?

Though their right to merely go about their days without fear was denied, both of my sisters exercised what rights were left them, took their rapists to court and won convictions. Though, with my sister Zreata's stint in law enforcement, I couldn't help but think of her when June Jordon published the following in 2005:

Poem about My Rights

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear   
my head about this poem about why I can’t   
go out without changing my clothes my shoes   
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/   
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want   
to do with my own body because I am the wrong   
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and   
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/   
or far into the woods and I wanted to go   
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking   
about children or thinking about the world/all of it   
disclosed by the stars and the silence:   
I could not go and I could not think and I could not   
stay there   
as I need to be   
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own   
body and   
who in the hell set things up   
like this   
and in France they say if the guy penetrates   
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me   
and if after stabbing him if after screams if   
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing   
a hammer to his head if even after that if he   
and his buddies fuck me after that   
then I consented and there was   
no rape because finally you understand finally   
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was   
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am   
which is exactly like South Africa   
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that   
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that         
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems   
turn out to be   
I am the history of rape   
I am the history of the rejection of who I am   
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of   
I am the history of battery assault and limitless   
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind   
and my body and my soul and   
whether it’s about walking out at night   
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or   
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or   
the sanctity of my national boundaries   
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity   
of each and every desire   
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic   
and indisputably single and singular heart   
I have been raped   
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age   
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the   
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic   
the wrong sartorial I   
I have been the meaning of rape   
I have been the problem everyone seeks to   
eliminate by forced   
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/   
but let this be unmistakable this poem   
is not consent I do not consent   
to my mother to my father to the teachers to   
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy   
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon   
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in   
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own   
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance   
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination   
may very well cost you your life

-- June Jordan
Voices and Soul

03 December 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

Since I was a child, I have been both enamored and appalled at the increasing militancy of our nation. We glory the Soldier as a Hero, one whose pedestal is not to be sullied. Songs are sung and films are broadcast about yellow ribbons and Gold Stars and red sky at morning and Johnny come marching home and tears at Arlington on Memorial and Veteran's Day with 20 gun salutes and full metal jackets shredding jungles and deserts and seas and air.

Everywhere I look, supplicants genuflect and tithe at the Altar of the Military; politicians and preachers sky pilot high school football homecoming prom dances, while daddy works in a coal mine going down down down burning fossil microbes to steam a turbine while economies and marriages suffer from codified martial strategies of weapons procurement and international arms sales.

A pedestal not to be sullied; a Hero exalted. Semper Fidelis until Johnny needs a job and a shoulder to lean on when the slide show of dismembered limbs and dead babies scorched against the charred breasts of scattered skeletons scrolls behind closed eyelids on a lazy summer afternoon; an exalted Hero until stumbled on the cold winter night theater district broken sidewalk, hungry and lame and mumbling about the Newburgh Conspiracy and how he is just a festering scar on the nation and no amount of cleaning the wound will stop the seeping ooze of his forgotten service, no amount of slicing away the rotting flesh will justify the public amnesia.



Black men are oaks cut down.

Congressional Medal of Honor Society
United States of America chartered by
Congress, August 14, 1958; this certifies
that STAC John Henry Louis is a member
of this society.

“Don’t ask me anything about the
medal. I don’t even know how I won

Debridement: The cutting away of dead
or contaminated tissue from a wound
to prevent infection.

America: love it or give it back.


Groceries ring
in my intestines:
grits aint groceries   
eggs aint poultry
Mona Lisa was a man:
waltzing in sawdust   
I dream my cards
has five holes in it,   
up to twenty holes;   
five shots out of seven   
beneath the counter;   
surrounded by detectives   
pale ribbons of valor   
my necklace of bullets   
powdering the operating table.

Five impaled men loop their ribbons   
’round my neck
listening to whispers of valor:
“Honey, what you cryin’ ’bout?   
You made it back.”

Four M-48 tank platoons ambushed
near Dak To, two destroyed:   
the Ho Chi Minh Trail boils,   
half my platoon rockets   
into stars near Cambodia,
foot soldiers dance from highland woods
taxing our burning half:

there were no caves for them to hide.
We saw no action,
eleven months twenty-two days   
in our old tank
burning sixty feet away:
I watch them burn inside out:   
hoisting through heavy crossfire,   
hoisting over turret hatches,   
hoisting my last burning man   
alive to the ground,
our tank artillery shells explode   
killing all inside:
hoisting blown burned squad   
in tank’s bladder,
plug leaks with cave blood:

there were no caves for them to hide—

In the Projects
Slung basketballs at Jeffries   
House with some welfare kids   
weaving in their figure eight hunger.

Mama asked if I was taking anything?   
I rolled up my sleeves:
no tracks, mama:
“black-medal-man ain’t street-poisoned,”
militants called:
“he’s an electronic nigger!”

“Better keep electronic nigger 'way.”
Electronic Nigger?   
Mama, unplug me, please.

A White Friend Flies In from the Coast
Burned —black by birth,
burned —armed with .45,
burned —submachine gun,
burned—STAC hunted VC,
burned —killing 5-20,
burned —nobody know for sure;   
burned —out of ammo,
burned—killed one with gun-stock,   
burned —VC AK-47 jammed,   
burned —killed faceless VC,   
burned —over and over,
burned —STAC subdued by three men,   
burned —three shots: morphine,   
burned —tried killing prisoners,   
burned —taken to Pleiku,
burned —held down, straitjacket,
burned —whites owe him, hear?   
burned —I owe him, here.

Mama’s Report
“Don’t fight, honey,   
don’t let ’em catch you.”

Tour over, gear packed,   
hospital over, no job.

“Aw man, nothin' happened,”
explorer, altar boy—

Maybe it’s ’cause they killed people   
and don’t know why they did?

My boy had color slides of dead people,   
stacks of dead Vietnamese.

MP’s asked if he’d been arrested   
since discharge, what he’d been doin’:

“Lookin’ at slides,
looking’ at stacks of slides, mostly.”

Fifteen minutes later a colonel called
from the Defense Department, said he’d won the medal;

could he be in Washington with his family,   
maybe he’d get a job now; he qualified.

The Democrats had lost, the president said;   
there were signs of movement in Paris:

Fixing Certificates:   Dog Tags:   Letters Home
Our heliteam had mid-air blowout   
dropping flares—5 burned alive.

The children carry hand   
grenades to and from piss tubes.

Staring at tracer bullets
rice is the focal point of war.

On amphibious raid, our heliteam
found dead VC with maps of our compound.

On morning sick call you unzip;   
before you piss you get a smear.

“VC reamed that mustang a new asshole”—
even at movies: “no round-eye pussy no more”—

Tympanic membrane damage: high gone—
20-40 db loss mid-frequencies.

Scrub-typhus, malaria, dengue fever, cholera;   
rotting buffalo, maggoted dog, decapped children.

Bangkok: amber dust, watches, C-rations,   
elephanthide billfolds, cameras, smack.

Sand&tinroof bunkers, 81/120 mm:
“Health record terminated this date by reason of death.”

Vaculoated amoeba, bacillary dysentery, hookworm;
thorazine, tetracycline, darvon for diarrhea.

'Conitus’ : I wanna go home to mama;
Brown’s mixture, ETH with codeine, cortisone skin-creams.

Written on helipad fantail 600 bed Repose;
“no purple heart, hit by ’nother marine.”

“Vascular repair, dissection, debridement”:
sharp bone edges, mushy muscle, shrapnel: stainless bucket.

Bodies in polyethylene bag: transport:   
'Tan San Nhat Mortuary’

Blood, endotracheal tube, prep   
abdomen, mid-chest to scrotum—

“While you’re fixin' me doc,
can you fix them ingrown hairs on my face?”

“They didn’t get my balls, did they?”
50 mg thorazine—“Yes they did, marine!”

Swans loom on the playground   
swooning in the basket air,
the nod of their bills
in open flight, open formation.   
Street-poisoned, a gray mallard   
skims into our courtyard with a bag:

And he poisons them —

And he poisons them

my pass is a blade   
near the sternum
cutting in:
you can make this a career.

Patches itch on my chest and shoulders—
I powder them with phisohex
solution from an aerosol can:
you can make this a career.

Pickets of insulin dab the cloudy
hallways in a spray.
Circuits of change
march to an honor guard—
I am prancing:   
I am prancing:

you can make this a career.

Makin’ Jump Shots
He waltzes into the lane
’cross the free-throw line,   
fakes a drive, pivots,
floats from the asphalt turf   
in an arc of black light,
and sinks two into the chains.

One on one he fakes   
down the main, passes   
into the free lane
and hits the chains.

A sniff in the fallen air—
he stuffs it through the chains   
riding high:
“traveling” someone calls—
and he laughs, stepping
to a silent beat, gliding
as he sinks two into the chains.

Debridement:   Operation Harvest Moon:   On Repose
The sestina traces a circle in language and body.

Stab incision below nipple,
left side; insert large chest tube;   
sew to skin, right side;
catch blood from tube
in gallon drain bottle.
Wash abdomen with phisohex;   
shave; spray brown iodine prep.

Stab incision below sternum   
to symphis pubis
catch blood left side;
sever reddish brown spleen
cut in half; tie off blood supply;   
check retroperitoneal,
kidney, renal artery bleeding.

Dissect lateral wall
abdominal cavity; locate kidney;   
pack colon, small intestine;   
cut kidney; suture closely;   
inch by inch check bladder,   
liver, abdominal wall, stomach:   
25 units blood, pressure down.

Venous pressure: 8; lumbar
musculature, lower spinal column   
pulverized; ligate blood vessels,   
right forearm; trim meat, bone ends;   
tourniquet above fracture, left arm;   
urine, negative: 4 hours; pressure   
unstable; remove shrapnel flecks.

Roll on stomach; 35 units blood;
pressure zero; insert plastic blood
containers, pressure cuffs; pump chest   
drainage tube; wash wounds sterile   
saline; dress six-inch ace wraps;
wrap both legs, toe to groin; left arm   
plaster, finger to shoulder: 40 units blood.

Pressure, pulse, respiration up;
remove bloody gowns; scrub; redrape;
5 cc vitamin K; thorazine: sixth
laparotomy; check hyperventilation;
stab right side incision below nipple;
insert large chest tube; catch blood drain bottle ...

The Family of Debridement
Theory: Inconvenienced subject will return to hospital   
if loaned Thunderbird
Withdrawn. Hope: Subject returns,
Foreclosure for nine months unpaid mortgage;   
wife tells subject hospital wants deposit,
Diseased cyst removal:
'Ain’t you gonna give me a little kiss good-bye’
Subject-wife: To return with robe and curlers—
Subject tells friend he’ll pay $15 to F’s stepfather   
if he’ll drive him to pick up money owed him.

“This guy lives down the street,
I don’t want him to see me coming.”

“It looked odd for a car filled with blacks
to be parked in the dark in a white neighborhood,   
so we pulled the car out under a streetlight   
so everybody could see us.”

Store manager: “I first hit him with two bullets   
so I pulled the trigger until my gun was empty.”

“I’m going to kill you, you white MF,” store manager   
told police. Police took cardload, F and F’s parents for   
further questioning. Subject died on operating table: 5 hrs:

Subject buried on grass slope, 200 yards   
east of Kennedy Memorial,
overlooking Potomac and Pentagon,   
to the south,
Arlington National Cemetery.

Army honor guard
in dress blues,
carried out assignment   
with precision.

-- Michael S. Harper
Voices and Soul

30 November 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Editor

I come from a strong Matriarchy; so strong in fact, one might say I come from a feminist extended-family. There was no division of labor by gender when doing chores, growing up; all of us mowed the lawn, washed dishes, cooked, cleaned. When we lived on the farm outside of Corvallis; all of us learned to sew and sow.

The great Matriarch of the Family, our Great Aunt Mabel, lived to be 102. Shortly after marriage in the late 1880's, she and her new husband provisioned a covered wagon and trekked across the plains on their way to California. Along the way, as she put it, "he wasn't up to snuff, so I had to kick him out." She took up with another fellow during the almost year long voyage; and he was "worse than the first", so he was sent packing as well. It took a special man to be with this special woman; as it has been, as it is and as it will be with all the women in my family.

I've heard the accusation, on more than one occasion, that the women in the family are "full of themselves."

"Yes," is their unabashed reply, resonating across the generations, "yes we are!"

Poem For A Lady Whose Voice I Like

so he said: you ain’t got no talent   
    if you didn’t have a face   
    you wouldn’t be nobody

and she said: god created heaven and earth   
    and all that’s Black within them

so he said: you ain’t really no hot shit   
    they tell me plenty sisters   
    take care better business than you

and she said: on the third day he made chitterlings   
    and all good things to eat   
    and said: “that’s good”

so he said: if the white folks hadn’t been under   
    yo skirt and been giving you the big play
    you’d a had to come on uptown like everybody else

and she replied: then he took a big Black greasy rib
    from adam and said we will call this woeman and her   
    name will be sapphire and she will divide into four parts   
    that simone may sing a song

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu

so she replied: show me someone not full of herself   
    and i’ll show you a hungry person

-- Nikki Giovanni
Voices and Soul

23 November 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

One of the American Myths about Thanksgiving is how a bounty of riches was bestowed and shared; that God's goodness shone down from above and anointed all with an infinite Grace. It's nice to think so. It's nice to think that benevolence and friendship forged the bessemer of this Nation.

If only it were true.

The truth is that this nation was forged with the white-hot ingots of conquest, genocide and slavery; there is a reckoning and it will be discussed at...

The Powwow at the End of the World

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam   
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam   
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you   
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find   
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific   
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon   
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia   
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors   
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River   
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives   
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.   
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after   
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws   
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire   
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told   
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon   
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us   
how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;   
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many   
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing   
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

-- Sherman Alexie
Voices and Soul

Newt's Inaugural (c) BlueGal

19 November 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

I was involved in a rather spirited discussion recently, with some former classmates whose brains have been consumed by the ghastly TeaBircher walking dead; and have become mouth-gnawing-bone-breaking-mindless-shuffling-toward-any-loud-noise-or-smell-of-blood Zombies themselves.

It was sad to see once beautiful and sexy women reduced to spittle-flecked, red-eyed rage; and once lithe and athletic men now gray and bloody and mad; frantically tearing at corpses long void of any discernible nourishment.

These weren't Zombies from some Caribbean Mythic conjuring though; so I had no choice but to retreat to the high ground to gain some better bearings.

One would think, that if these Zombies looked in the mirror, they would know their mortal coil has been conquered, that their Souls have left the vessel; that their broken and flailing limbs, their skulls absent of brain tissue, the ganglia hanging loose and dripping a slimy green liquid; you would think that would give them a clue to their predicament. But they only respond to a bright flash, a jarring thud and the smell of raw meat. So they shuffle and grasp and mouth senseless words that are mere recitations embedded in a lizard-center of a forgotten hormonal gland activated by Fox News wireless electrical shocks.

Maybe it's cruel for me to say so, maybe it's inflammatory to call these folks the walking dead and use such ghastly, grade-b monster movie metaphor.

Maybe it's simplifying matters to call these folks mindless Zombies; when they know damn well what they are doing. Just as the Good Germans, they so mightily resemble, did before, during and after the fall of the Third Reich.

These TeaBirchers complain of brown people harrassing them with cupped hands begging for something not due them. These TeaBirchers complain of the jobless as losers who should be left to disappear in some other ether; just don't park on their street or ask for a job at their shop. These TeaBirchers consume the most and give back the least; and cheer when doctors are assassinated while advocating for a woman's right to choose.

The TeaBirchers say they harken to the Silent Majority from the time of Nixon and Reagan. Rather than silent, they are a cruel majority; a cruel majority that would rather see a child die of sickness than extend healthcare. A cruel majority that will kick a man or woman when they are down and then penalize them for complaining about it. A cruel majority that expects the unflinching fealty any bully demands, from any who comes between them and what they wish to possess.

A Poem for the Cruel Majority

The cruel majority emerges!

Hail to the cruel majority!

They will punish the poor for being poor.
They will punish the dead for having died.

Nothing can make the dark turn into light
for the cruel majority.
Nothing can make them feel hunger or terror.

If the cruel majority would only cup their ears
the sea would wash over them.
The sea would help them forget their wayward children.
It would weave a lullaby for young & old.

(See the cruel majority with hands cupped to their ears,
one foot is in the water, one foot is on the clouds.)

One man of them is large enough to hold a cloud
between his thumb & middle finger,
to squeeze a drop of sweat from it before he sleeps.

He is a little god but not a poet.
(See how his body heaves.)

The cruel majority love crowds & picnics.
The cruel majority fill up their parks with little flags.
The cruel majority celebrate their birthday.

Hail to the cruel majority again!

The cruel majority weep for their unborn children,
they weep for the children that they will never bear.
The cruel majority are overwhelmed by sorrow.

(Then why are the cruel majority always laughing?
Is it because night has covered up the city's walls?
Because the poor lie hidden in the darkness?
The maimed no longer come to show their wounds?)

Today the cruel majority vote to enlarge the darkness.

They vote for shadows to take the place of ponds
Whatever they vote for they can bring to pass.
The mountains skip like lambs for the cruel majority.

Hail to the cruel majority!
Hail! hail! to the cruel majority!

The mountains skip like lambs, the hills like rams.
The cruel majority tear up the earth for the cruel majority.
Then the cruel majority line up to be buried.

Those who love death will love the cruel majority.

Those who know themselves will know the fear
the cruel majority feel when they look in the mirror.

The cruel majority order the poor to stay poor.
They order the sun to shine only on weekdays.

The god of the cruel majority is hanging from a tree.
Their god's voice is the tree screaming as it bends.
The tree's voice is as quick as lightning as it streaks across the sky.

(If the cruel majority go to sleep inside their shadows,
they will wake to find their beds filled up with glass.)

Hail to the god of the cruel majority!
Hail to the eyes in the head of their screaming god!

Hail to his face in the mirror!

Hail to their faces as they float around him!

Hail to their blood & to his!

Hail to the blood of the poor they need to feed them!
Hail to their world & their god!

Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!

-- Jerome Rothenberg

08 December 2010

Voices and Soul

11 November 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Editor

As Haiti and her tragedies continue to fade from the collective memory of a Nation consumed with its own Exceptionalism, there remains a collective few who keep the memory alive. If we don't keep Haiti in the forefront of our concern, then we will have condemned the island and her people as we always have. Yet concern without action means we have condemned Haiti to an even greater tragedy.


What good are your tears?
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?

What good, the warm benevolence of tears
without action?
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?

Before this day is gone,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?

I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of their souls departing ...
mournful, and distant.

How pitiful our "effort,"
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them,
if only with neglect.

-- Michael R. Burch