Poetry to Soothe the Soul

I’m writing about politics now not because I believe I know more about it than anyone else, but because after November 2 – an even darker day for America than September 11* (better 3000 Americans killed than 59,000,000 voting their approval to genocide and sexual torture) – I couldn’t find anything on the internet to make me feel better. For many hours there was just nothing, then the articles started rolling in, predictably, by Democrats blaming themselves. The Repugs eat this up, that every time they cream us we act like it’s our own fault. I refuse to play into it. We can discuss strategy and what to do next time, but before we take the slightest iota of blame on ourselves, let’s be very clear about one thing: anyone who thinks it’s a bigger crime for two men to get married than to invade a country and kill 100,000 of its citizens to get its oil is just SICK. Sick, sick, sick. We can later get really cynical and figure out how to attract sick voters, but bewail how we failed to reach high enough moral ground? Puhleeeeeeeeeeeze.

So I’m trying to throw out some tidbits to comfort the sane and thoroughly depressed. Including a couple of poems, the first by Mikhail Horowitz of Bard College’s publications office, cleverly based on the all-too-familiar letters of its subject:


Betrayal! United States has

Been usurped, stolen, hustled

By ugly shrub! He

Bamboozles us, sets his

Battalions upon Saddam Hussein

But undermines social health

By unhappily sanctifying Homeland

(Bullshittin’ us?) Security. His

Bromidic, unintelligible speech hides,

Barely, undiluted slyness; he’d

Bomb Utopia, serving his

Beastly, ultrafascistic Satan. He’s

Bellicose, unbalanced, shameless; he’s

Breaking Uncle Sam’s heart.

Brothers, unite! Sisters, help!

Band up! Stop him!

– Mikhail Horowitz

And on a calmer, more thoughtful note, one sent to me for consolation by composer John Luther Adams, from the poet John Haines, who wrote it before the 2000 election:

The Last Election

Suppose there are no returns,

and the candidates, one

by one, drop off in the polls,

as the voters turn away,

each to his inner persuasion.

The frontrunners, the dark horses,

begin to look elsewhere,

and even the President admits

he has nothing new to say;

it is best to be silent now.

No more conventions, no donors,

no more hats in the ring;

no ghost-written speeches,

no promises we always knew

were never meant to be kept.

And something like the truth,

or what we knew by that name-

that for which no corporate

sponsor was ever offered –

takes hold in the public mind.

Each subdued and thoughtful

citizen closes his door, turns

off the news. He opens a book,

speaks quietly to his children,

begins to live once more.

– John Haines

*A friend warns that I’ll be jumped on for this comment, but it’s based on a moral principle that I, an acknowledged liberal, believe in: that the evil a person does is more damaging to that person than the evil that is done to him. Terrorists can hit us and we can still hold our heads up high in the world, but if we perpetrate the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, I insist that we no longer can. In fact, I think that our national willingness to commit any crime, ignore any moral law, sweep aside any international treaty, rather than risk another 9-11 is an unparalleled example of national cowardice. If you disagree, then of course 9-11-01 will seem like a much worse day than 11-2-04, and maybe you sleep better than I do.