A Half-Baked Manifesto
for Reconstructing Broken Bones
I told the Pentagon's one-eyed guy
this damn war'd bring thousands
of innocent deaths & hot new recruits
into al qaeda-affiliated terror firms
but he still lives in the Cold War & loves
to hear the sound of young ones falling.
Now the exploding corpses in uniform & out
are food for the birds.
Now 200-ton nation-destroying bombs
send sacred iron pillars to break bones
& knock down homes
across the floating extinction of continents.
"Only acknowledge your iniquity"
said Jeremiah in the voice of god
but the president is coughing & scrambling
his syntax trying to explain his & his nation's
past macrobiological mistakes.
The Attorney General has turned
into a granite fossil while kneeling in prayer
& compiling neon McCarthyite files
on infants & toddlers of antiwar marchers.
Maher Arar was tortured in Syria's breadcrusted dungeon
despite Ashcroft's assurances heard echoing
through the background noise
of a high-speed human rights blender. Cheney still claims
Saddam was Osama's late night lover, Rumsfeld says
the word "Guantanamo" with the smug grin
of a man who knows it makes no difference to rusty
corporate news anchors whether his lies
are big or bigger. The century's most pungent
smog-filled bill is nicknamed Clear Skies Initiative,
Healthy Forests offers loggers a free supply
of chain saw blades. An energy reform chauffeur
drives a cab full of tax breaks to summer homes
of those fillet-prepared to cook the globe
over a medium flame. The national
crime prevention brigade has developed a no-fail economic
blackmail scheme to garner flak jacket U.S. immunity
from world's most progressive war crimes court.
Even the rose-pedaled immune systems of children
are not immune from Bush team's sour medicine,
where "education for all" is laconic code
for stripping schools of the last sliver of union-made paint.
Ending hunger for this shrink-wrapped administration
equals sending starved kids down
to nearest bootstrap sermon. If you ask for citizenly explanation,
their public relations spokesman
sighs it's all so undecideable
some weird kind of post-post-structuralist
vague, ungraspable reasons overflowing
horizontally across basement floor here
vertically thru 50-foot castle roof there, somebody
they are unable to identify has placed a mile-wide pothole
along the highway of American ideals.
Their made-in-Miami rubber bullet pellets
are the only justification they offer, locked & loaded
for rampaging gangs of idealistic teens.
There is no signature at bottom
of any interdepartmental forms,
no one with beating cabinet heart is available
to speak softly at the flag salute funeral, the documents
the investigative committee has requested
were shoved through the corporate paper shredder
a long time ago. There are no answers for questions
of who never knew. Who told Novak?
Who forged Niger?
How Enron money? Who slipped the 27 lies
into Bush's State of the Union speech?
Why's a Chinese semi-conductor company
paying brother Neil 2 million technophobic bucks?
How did we get from Civil Rights Act
of 1866 to here?
O that my head were waters! Lack of sleep
has become breakfast too many mornings.
The Earth has been sighing
through our open flesh wounds a quarter-million years.
The sun misses its beloved.
Our bodies self-destruct.
Our poets in the snowy cities deconstruct.
Run--the horse--cave belly ache--
corn never roots wish--
no end then beginnings--
cut wire whispering--
Which of the wanting Grand Narratives
are they talking about now? O lamentations!
O Jeremiah! O Blake! There is no longer
a good excuse for our innocence!
Back in the 1980s I told the poetry world
it was reconstruction that held the greatest
unfulfilled emancipatory potential.
I was looking for the 14th amendment of poetry,
a verse to reverse Plessy v. Ferguson
for good, a new way of seeing to flip
the notion of original intent on its head, judicial doctrine
meant to invisibly disintegrate the most utopian
midnight desires of post-Civil War era.
Much humane good has been done in this country,
the ideals of democracy & unimprisoned talk,
the vote & the vatic blues,
the fight against fascism and mass migratory movements
for peace & australopithicene-ancestored rights,
the jazz trumpet & long lines
of bebop hiphop verse. An expanding nutritional belly
of sometimes sustainable mirth, quantum-eyed inventions
of some melodic medicines & humming machines.
But it is still reconstruction that is most
in need of a 40-acre rescue. Yet I have grown
older & occasionally smarter
& can now also say "long live
the language poets"
& the 10,000 other international schools,
so many diverse linguistic loves capable of digging
up useful glory. As Nicanor Parra said,
too much blood has been spilled
under the bridge to go on believing only one poetic
road is right. Whether a kitchen mirror to the real,
or Ernst Bloch's anticipatory illuminations,
Isaiah's admonition holds: "do not shed innocent
blood in this place."
In my most transparent moments
of realism, there is a purple horse labeled a long shot
at the last moment reaching its neck
across the finish line first.
In utopian fantasies I see thousands of multicolored shirts
marching peacefully in the streets
to throw Bolivia's president out
of the country, to send Georgia's electoral thief
home with embarrassed eyes dangling.
I see a new global trade organization
exporting the idea of taxfree nonviolent presidential topplings
whichever corner of Earth they're well deserved.
I see a Geneva-negotiated peace deal
between Israelis & Palestinians that at first offers only
a full-throated birdsong organizing tool,
but within a short time
is being implemented step by step by a less stubborn age.
I see a new president of Brazil
altering the map of incomplete bridges.
The TV Reporters of Record have tried so hard
to convince us we have no choice
but this George, too, will be dethroned.
Love, you and I will unlock our x-rayed suitcase
of buried laughter, the jobs promised
will be there for all,
no longer will any engendered group be sacrificed at altar
of an idea. Isaiah, we take the plowshares
in our broken hands.
The wound bandages itself. The burnt day care center
is rebuilt from its ashes. Our poems
have become immune to the scissors.
Reparations for slavery's non-biodegradable shackles
& native America's broken treaties will be paid.
The next plague is already cured.
Our most peaceful surrealistic phrases mean
what they say. The Human Rights Act
of 2050 is passed!
—Eliot Katz (2003)