On Writing a Poem
We’re Guilty of Compassion and the Troops are Coming
They, Who Loved Life As Much As We
What Keeps Her Up at Night
On the Eve of Assault
(This poem has 5 titles.
I couldn’t choose just one, so I kept all five.
All five constitute one title.
WordPress didn’t like that.
Would only let me have one.
So here we are.)
How does she write a poem
when the city she has lived in for 52 years is about to be
invaded militarily by an army her taxes paid for compulsorily
being, as we are, here, in San Francisco, guilty of compassion
Guilty as are ten whole states — sanctuary states.
(California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts,
New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont)
Guilty as are 133 counties across America — sanctuary counties.
Guilty as are 30 cities across America — sanctuary cities. (including all the major ones, New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Jackson, Seattle, and a lot more)
(As of 2018,
the population of California was 39.56 million
the population of Illinois was 12.74 million
the population of New York State was 19.54 million
the population of Colorado was 5.69 million
the population of New Jersey was 8.909 million
the population of Connecticut was 3.57 million
the population of Massachusetts was 6.90 million
the population of New Mexico was 2.09 million
the population of Oregon was 4.19 million
the population of Vermont was 626,000.
the population of Seattle was 724,746
the population of Baltimore was 619,493)
Add it up… I mean just poetically and numerically add it up.
Over one hundred million live in sanctuary cities, counties, and states.
Should we be building barricades
Just how the fuck is she supposed to
write a poem
about the bees who are dying
and the birds no longer flying
and the children locked in cages sick
without health care and sexually molested
Just really for chrissake how is she supposed to
write a poem
that rhymes children dying and president lying
climate emergency and the sixth great extinction?
Should she close or open her eyes?
listen to dog whistles meant for the alt right
taste salty tears of people deported
or sorted (OUT) before they get to the border
When she hears Third Reich resonance should she pretend there was never
a Kristallnacht, No breaking of glass
No Auschwitz, No gas?
Should she reason that perhaps there are
two sane sides to the insanity of this mighty State
that we need to hear equally from those who speak science
and those who preach fear-based bigotry and hate
Should she make sure the lines of her poem are the right length
While lines of asylum seekers, hungry, frightened, cold, and detained
wait on the Mexican side of the absurd wall-that-Congress-voted-not-to-build-being-built-
anyway on lands that hold indigenous peoples’ remains
She’s trying to figure out how to sleep
because her body keeps waking her up
at 3am asking why the fuck she’s trying to sleep
when there’s an emergency and work to be done
Her body says sleeping, eating, writing a poem,
chatting with a friend in the garden — her body has so much to say —
Is this how they welcomed Hitler’s troops into sanctuary cities
and took people away
The first betrayal was Vietnam, those poor innocent people of Vietnam
who needed to sort out their own post-colonial misery
who didn’t need America spraying agent orange and dropping napalm
on them They who loved life as much as we
How did she ever think they wouldn’t eventually be coming for us
She loops crying and rage with numb solitude
She’s tired, determined, and confused
Not knowing the outcome
isn’t a free pass to do nothing
Please tell her what to write a poem about
a prompt prompt if you please
sorry for the urgency, but
heavily armed troops are about to invade our city
4 thoughts on “On Writing a Poem”
Wow, Gayle. This is sooooo good. Thank you!
I’m up with you next door. This is an age of rampant anxiety. Write it out, which is what you’re doing. Poems for our times
thank you, k.n.d. sister, yes… we write what we’re given, right? and, ah there should be a cafe on our block open only from 3-5 am and you only get to arrive in your pjs and read your poems or lament. xoxo
This is a truly remarkable piece of writing. Omg!