Poems

Richard Kenney: “Civics”

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Civics

I. Paul’s Prandial

Imagine barbed wire, served alive and writhing,
spooled upon a fork: Paul Ryan’s lunch.
The sauce is red. It’s on his shirt. I think,
he thinks, this may not easily expunge.

Where did they get this wire, he asks. A fence?
Both sides of one, he answers, chewing. Safer.
Although, he thinks, I’m better off than Pence.
I wish it’s something Mexico would pay for.

Poor Paul! Give him bicarbonate of soda.
His future echoes, loud with slamming doors.
He broods. Now with the subtlety of Yoda
proclaims he can’t defend what he’ll endorse.

II. Our Democracy

As kids we’re taught it’s safe as Pyramids,
unshakeable and permanent amidst
a sordid history amok with ids

frocked in all those lesser ocracies
the mind of man has proffered up, all crazy,
and all doomed to end up like the auk.

(Plus, it’s Athenian, we think. Pax Plato;
smart man, but no one bats a thousand). Later,
though, we see it’s really safe as plates

awhirl on broomsticks. Trump! And now we’re all
ears, waiting for the fools with whom we’ve quarreled
to aggregate a mob for all the world

like all the mobs in storybooks: the slaking
rage that spatters from the joke when Loki
rules the moot: we thought it was OK.

Thought nothing could go really wrong. We thought
the fire we played with wasn’t all that hot.
We thought we could control it, and could not.

III. Alt-Right

To watch the party of Lincoln
die was hard to see.
What ever were they thinking,
the leaders of the party of Lincoln?—
What Kool-Aid were they drinking,
laced with bile and Tea?
The party of Abraham Lincoln,
gone? It was hard to see.

But lo—it lives! The graves
have opened! And it’s no Lincoln.
An expanded Republican base
makes for a whole new race,
whose Jack ‘0 Lantern face
has all the pundits blinking.
Now it’s a brand-new race
for the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Sub-rosa cues on race—
the gutter-tongue that plays
to an ever-baser base—
what’s so hard to see?
It’s the Kool-Aid they’ve been drinking,
laced with bile and Tea.

Richard Kenney‘s most recent book is The One-Strand River (Knopf, 2008). He teaches at the University of Washington.