Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Poem of Disconnected Parts

At Robben Island the political prisoners studied.
They coined the motto Each one Teach one.

In Argentina the torturers demanded the prisoners
Address them always as “Profesor.”

Many of my friends are moved by guilt, but I
Am a creature of shame, I am ashamed to say.

Culture the lock, culture the key. Imagination
That calls boiled sheep heads “Smileys.”

The first year at Guantánamo, Abdul Rahim Dost
Incised his Pashto poems into styrofoam cups.

“The Sangomo says in our Zulu culture we do not
Worship our ancestors: we consult them.”

Becky is abandoned in 1902 and Rose dies giving
Birth in 1924 and Sylvia falls in 1951.

Still falling still dying still abandoned in 2005
Still nothing finished among the descendants.

I support the War, says the comic, it’s just the Troops
I’m against: can’t stand those Young People.

Proud of the fallen, proud of her son the bomber.
Ashamed of the government. Skeptical.

After the Klansman was found Not Guilty one juror
Said she just couldn’t vote to convict a pastor.

Who do you write for? I write for dead people:
For Emily Dickinson, for my grandfather.

“The Ancestors say the problem with your Knees
Began in your Feet. It could move up your Back.”

But later the Americans gave Dost not only paper
And pen but books. Hemingway, Dickens.

Old Aegyptius said Whoever has called this Assembly,
For whatever reason—it is a good in itself.

O thirsty shades who regard the offering, O stained earth.
There are many fake Sangomos. This one is real.

Coloured prisoners got different meals and could wear
Long pants and underwear, Blacks got only shorts.

No he says he cannot regret the three years in prison:
Otherwise he would not have written those poems.

I have a small-town mind. Like the Greeks and Trojans.
Shame. Pride. Importance of looking bad or good.

Did he see anything like the prisoner on a leash? Yes,
In Afghanistan. In Guantánamo he was isolated.

Our enemies “disassemble” says the President.
Not that anyone at all couldn’t mis-speak.

The profesores created nicknames for torture devices:
The Airplane. The Frog. Burping the Baby.

Not that those who behead the helpless in the name
Of God or tradition don’t also write poetry.

Guilts, metaphors, traditions. Hunger strikes.
Culture the penalty. Culture the escape.

What could your children boast about you? What
Will your father say, down among the shades?

The Sangomo told Marvin, “You are crushed by some
Weight. Only your own Ancestors can help you.”

Robert Pinsky

I managed to suvive my birthday celebration last Friday. It was made easier as we simply went home after a pleasant dinner with friends (friends were pleasant the wait staff not really) instead of attempting to close down The Dublin with the inevitable parade of shots.

Yesterday I started two mysteries by Ross Macdonald only to realize that I had already read them both. It took me about 40 pages into each of them before I remembered the plot and who done it. This was just after I had finished an unsatisying novel about Rome from a writer I generally admire. So I ended up reading a John D. MacDonald Travis McGee story in which I did not recall who killed whom and enjoyed it thoroughly

I am on quest for something good to read. I found the Pinksy on the new book shelf at library and thought it would be good to break things up before attempting another novel. The next one on the pile looks good and is about Tesla (the man not the band) so I have high hopes.


Churlita said...

I'm glad your birthday went well. I may get stupid and decided to close the Dublin one or both nights this weekend. Pray for me and everyone else there.

I don't know, a book about the band Tesla could actually be entertaining.

Dexter said...

i did see Tesla once when they opened for Def was late leppard after the drummer's accident. It did indeed rock. "Pour Some Sugar on Me..."