Tuesday, November 29, 2016

San Cristóbal, Cuba, October, 1962*

A good place for the end of a road
and the last work to begin:
packed dirt turns to dual ruts
bulldozers have scarred through the grass.
All around this clearing ragged heads
of palms toss in slow motion as if
something terrible took place
that needed minute recording. Brightness
of the clouds cuts shadows on the ground
of wild weeds, shadows of a truck, that
trailer and a tent too long for any purpose
than here, five hours from the bunker at Bejucal.

I grip the jeeps's wheel whiter
when a pelican overflies the site,
and I brake and park by a generator
that runs roughly on a patch of mud.
Too much sky here, as if already
there was nowhere left to hide and heat
rose from the open earth back to the sun,
and this place so carefully planned
is already unravelled to the stratosphere.

In this meantime I check my list slowly.
Here sit the prime movers on clogged tracks;
here the pulled tanks of fuel; here the formula
that makes it burn; here the winch to pull
the nosecone skyward so it may fall to earth
once more as a star breaking days
apart in one simple flash. I check
them all off and it finally occurs to me
that everything is present right here
at the end of a road, all of it precisely
ordered beyond anyone's wishes,
even the lost smoke of diesel engines.

*One of the missile launching sites discovered by U-2 flights over Cuba at the beginning of the crisis.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Driving Through Hobart, Indiana, 5 A.M., November 9, 2016

When I was young every shadow
had meaning and the houses of the morning
stretched into darkness.

In the flat light of the sun
I could dissect dandelions'
gray conductive tissue–
miracle without magic–
and see the future's compromises.

But this morning the tiny lights
of kitchens roll by where parents
nervously pour the cereal,
and dogs' nails skitter on the tiles.

In my heart a lovely terror
blooms for all the houses
falling into the past. I don't call it
compassion. This morning
I know it is true I've lost nothing.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Random Comment On A Trump Victory

A few days after Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, I spotted an SUV in my hometown's traffic with this enigmatic warning scrawled on its smoked back window: "America: Don't be led like lambs to the slaughter." A few weeks later I overheard the owner of a local store loudly telling an Obama joke to a customer. Before the end of Obama's first term I spotted an anti-Obama protest on one of the thoroughfares entering the town. Sometime in his second term a coworker sent me an email featuring Obama with a face morphed to look like a chimpanzee. Later yet the same coworker said to me, "You voted for Obama? That's good to know. I've never met anyone who had the guts to admit he voted for Obama. I hate the fucker. Thanks for telling me."

I no longer live in that town or have that job, but it must be because of my years of conditioning there that I'm possessed of an inner Trump voter. When Donald Trump infamously quipped that he could shoot someone in Times Square and not lose votes, I immediately understood what he said. Through his words he flaunted a license given to him by a living public rage underwritten by racism, nationalism and a conservatism American politics had jilted as it had been once silently appeased through dog whistle signaling. Trump threw out the dog whistle. My inner Trump voter smiled at being directly and openly addressed by his campaign.

Needless to say, it was not the inner Trump voter who cast the vote for Hillary Clinton this week but what I'd like to think is the better angel of my nature. Yet I find myself in a dark place, not unlike the driver of that SUV in 2008, hardly able to accept the reality of the president-elect. I've long understood Trump's popularity. Now some knowledge of the opposition to Obama comes, though I hope it does not come with the same level of hate.

The question is how to oppose the regime that this week swept into power without resorting to unpatriotic acts such as congressional Republican obstructionism or high school hooliganism, though it's an open question at the  time of this post which option does more damage. The day calls for civic order, but its a day of factions who view one another across an abyss. Yesterday Obama gracefully met with Trump in the White House to begin the orderly transfer of power and to provide an example of the civility of a functioning nation. That civility and that nation and its functionality happen ephemerally through countless small efforts to bridge the differences between people every day, and the efforts work more or less or fail. The question at hand is how to oppose without dissolving the bonds of a nation. Film maker Michael Moore has said we've elected the last American president.

All I know to do right now is hope he is wrong.