Sunday, May 27, 2007

ONE (somewhat past due) POLITICAL POEM

US of A

Prisoners naked, tied on the blood-spattered floor. Attacked by dogs. Woman grinning, thumbs up for the camera. My tax dollars go towards that, my tax dollars. Money-laundered dirty money, filthy shit-streaked pus-slathered money. All you shiny sleek people in your shiny sleek buildings have filthy shit-streaked pus-slathered money in your veins. Don’t deny it! It’s in my veins too, in the branded booze, in the TV images in my daily bread. And when I see your precision-controlled slaughters, when I see your deep mass graves funded by my money I cringe at every word I write, every laundered word, every lent, laundered syllable that went through the mouths of others and was shit-streaked and pus-slathered by every sewage system and smoke stack on this planet, choking in the fumes of its exhaust.

This one I wrote in a white heat after being sickened by recently released pictures from these Abu-Graib prison photos that Pris first drew my attention to. Of course the prose poem underwent quite a few refinements in revision -- the "precision controlled" slaughters, the "TV images in my daily bread" (an image derived from FS, by the way) are things I added over the following year. Some of the discussion by Americans there and elsewhere (this was the second wave of pictures released from the prison) revolved around the guilt feelings from their tax dollars funding this debacle. I suppose that discussion invaded my psyche. As I wrote, I found myself being swept almost involuntarily into taking on the point of the point of view of one of those indignant Americans in the poem. As a Canadian, of course, my tax dollars didn't go directly to support the atrocities in Abu Graib, as far as I know. Yet I find we Canadians have far too easy a time absolving ourselves of any responsibility for the vile excesses of American Empire with which we are not only complicit, but aid and abet. Plenty of blood is spilled to ensure that most of us stay comfortable, have lots of fun and burn lots of gas doing it. ETC. That's why I made the title so it could read us of A.

Over the last several months, this poem was turned back from a number of slush piles and now seems old news. As discussed here. As Andrew suggested, I've sent several past due (but still relevant) political poems for consideration by Mr. Slaughter, but somehow, his name notwithstanding, I couldn't imagine this one gracing his distinguished but mild-mannered review. I'm really not sure where I could send this one. All the reviews seem too mild mannered. So I put it here.

Odd (seems now) how natural it felt to partake in our culture's age-old revulsion for bodily functions to express my abhorrence for the evils of Abu Graib. Shit really shouldn't be insulted that way. Of course, our decorous leaders -- in public at least -- practically never say the word, even though their mouths are often full of it.


Pris said...

Brian, a well written acccount of a horrid event. I can't get those images out of my mind, either. I never got my 'Letters Not Sent' poem to a good journal home before this was considered to be 'old news' either. God only knows what happens in those lock-ups now, though, since Bush sanctioned torture. The military is just smart enough not to take photos anymore. Thanks for sharing the outrage even now!

Anonymous said...

Nice--if that's a suitable adjective in this case.

Stephen Harper and several major corporations have probably already leaned on the arts councils, warning them of the 'accidents' that might befall their families if they ever fund any of your literary projects again.

Brian Campbell said...

Pris: you and the world are welcome.
Rob: I never even thought of that. My god! My goose is cooked, and it hasn't had a chance lay even one golden egg!