ON READING LAWRENCE O’DONNELL IN THE AGE OF TRUMP*
Chicago exorcists of the curse of Hue,
the children’s choice seemed so simple and so clear:
To purge and burn the stench of their parents’ sins
as voyeurs in Johnson/Nixon’s daisy chain.
Even as torrents of TV blood and horror
entombed the country’s slumbering shame and guilt
beneath accumulations of mud and silt,
they nurtured the nation’s worst hotel murders.
“So, whose side are you on?” A binary pick –
The side of the assassins or the martyrs.
And which will you be, the muck or the water?
Heedless moral passion or cowardly check?
Dump the Hump! Make Love Not War! Get Clean for Gene!
Tune In, Drop Out! Trust No One Over 30!
New! Improved! Eliminate Parental Dirt!
Alas. We knew not the problem’s in our genes.
* In 2018 Lawrence O’Donnell published “Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics,” an account of opposition to the American war in Viet Nam. The antiwar crusade was led initially by a little-known senator, who defied the leader of his own party, President Lyndon Johnson, on this issue and forced him to withdraw from his re-election campaign. The movement was then taken up by senator Robert Kennedy, the brother of the assassinated President John Kennedy. The junior Kennedy was also assassinated. The book focuses on the attempts of young Americans (and others) to force their country to adopt humanistic, progressive policies.
OBSERVING THE INERTIAL 3RD *
From dawn to noon
by light of the moon.
Then new day breaks
up static buttress shield
until ecstatic catastrophe
careens without brake.
* Isaac Newton’s third law posits that bodies at rest remain at rest, and those in motion continue in motion, unless acted upon by sufficient force. This poem glances at social change from that perspective, both in terms of the continuance of the status quo and then from the perspective of revolutionary action.
HEADLINES, AND WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR MYTHS *
SENSORS STRETTTCH OUT INTO X
fairies who cared for us are now buried
CHANGE OF VIEW ENDANGERS STATE
gnomes aren’t zoned for total-electric homes
CENSORS ATTACK WITH THREATS AND X’S
cyclops in smog will OD on eye drops
STAKES WAGERED ON X AND O
trolls froze—they were exposed to rock-n-roll
CANNONS AT COLLEGES AIMED
giants can’t beat the brains out of science
CHANGE COLLECTED IN CHURCH PLATE
elves are less magic than unconscious selves
CANON COMPOSES NEW STATUS QUO
genies gulled into bottles by a gene
STALES AND OLD BELIEVERS FLAME
Jesus extradited: expired visas
SENSORS STRETCH INTO NEW X
* A commentary on how the creatures of our imagination have been made extinct in the modern world.
DECLARATION MANIFESTO PALIMPSEST *
When: in the course of human events
when: in the course of development—
it becomes necessary, for One People
(class distinctions have disappeared
and all production) has been concentrated
to dissolve the political bonds in the HANDS
which have connected them with another
of a vast association and to assume
(of the Whole Nation) the public Power
among the Powers (of the earth)
will lose its political character
the separate and equal station
to which the laws—political Power—
of nature properly so called (and of nature’s
God is merely the organized power)
entitle them of One Class, a decent respect
(for the opinions of mankind)
for opposing another Requires
if the proletariat (during its Contest
with the bourgeoisie) is Compelled
that they should declare by the Force
of circumstances the causes, to organize
itself (as a class) which Impel it
(by means of a revolution):
it makes itself, them, to
We, the ruling class, HOLD these and,
as such, truth-to-be, self-evident:
That: All Men sweeps away,
by Force are created,
equal the old conditions of production—
That: they are Endowed. Then, it will,
along with these conditions,
by their creator, have Swept Away
(with certain unalienable rights the conditions)—
That: among these are:
life for the existence,
and the pursuit of class Antagonisms
That: to secure these rights,
and of the classes generally,
governments are instituted
(among men) and will thereby
have abolished its own Supremacy,
deriving (their) “just” Powers
from the consent (as a class
of the governed)—
That: whenever in place of the old
any form of government becomes
(with its classes, and
Destructive of these ends
and class Antagonisms),
it is the right of The People
To Alter—or—to Abolish.
We shall HAVE it
(an association) and—
to Institute new government
in which the free development
(laying its foundation of each
on such principles)
is the condition for free development—
and organizing its Powers
(in such form as to them shall seem
of all most likely)
to Effect their safety and
happiness (prudence), indeed,
* A mash-up/cut-up consisting only of the words of Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” and Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto.”
Duane Vorhees was born in Germantown, Ohio, near the Indiana border. He moved to nearby Farmersville when he was 10 and spent his adolescence there — or, rather, his adolescence spent him! After high school he briefly attended “The” Ohio State University before graduating from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio with a degree in American Studies. He has spent most of his life abroad, mainly teaching in Korea and Japan for the marvelously redundantly named University of Maryland University College. Now he is happily retired in Khon Kaen, Thailand, where he publishes a daily creative arts magazine, duanespoetree.blogspot.com.