Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Letter to Barack Obama"/an inaugural poem

"Letter to Barack Obama (Solstice, 2008)" by Philip Metres (pmetres@jcu.edu)

Yes, you’ll need to stay alive
to the possibilities
of disappointing us, who believe
you’d change everything

& yesterday. To dodge bullets,
those ballots of the disaffected
& the entrenched,
their undisclosed locations

in our collective mind. To stare
whole buildings back
from rubble of foreclosure
& condemnation, stand watch

over bridges to nowhere
we’ve never known, & always
someone’s somewhere. To end stop
/loss & unlawful

combatants, extraordinary
renditions & waterboarding,
the cool abstractions that make
torture into Pet Sounds.

You’ll need to pierce the wall
of sound that power makes,
or tent yourself in your living
room & slowly go mad. Stay long

enough that we grow
used to you, scion of the globe,
become mundane as a dollar,
flawed, iconic, yet alive.

So when you’re called to kill
in our name, like a lover
who’s slept with another,
we’ll never let you live

it down, though we will
never leave. Nor forgive.


Steven Gus Page said...

Gorgeous and brave. Thank you.

Philip Metres said...

thanks, Cynthia. That was one of those after-midnight arrivals--kept me up on the solstice.

Anonymous said...

Love the poem. Hope you're doing well. I need to come in some time to chat; I miss your insights!

- Rina

Philip Metres said...

thanks, Rina, I hope you're doing well. Law school is full on, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Phil -

I've been sitting with this poem for the last couple of days. It's rich and yet spare at the same time. I love it. It speaks many different words, all true. We expect too much, we are hopeful and vengeful, all that. Nice work.

Steve said...

I like this, too, and yes, like Joe Ross, get "rich and spare" at the same time (which is ever a Quality combination).

Incidentally, the "end stop / /loss," Phil, is that ending "stop losses" of playing stock market and shorting a stock?

over bridges to nowhere
we’ve never known, & always
someone’s somewhere. To end stop
/loss & unlawful

I don't understand the last stanza and will have to read a few more times. I know that when I do get it, the last stanza, I'll like it, though. Nice poming, P.M.! Again, Yes, both rich and spare, Cool!

Steve Tills :)