A Demonstration in Words

Hila Ratzabi

This poem was written in two sections on September 1st, 2004, during the Republican National Convention in New York City. Section one is an amalgamation of quotes from a poetry demonstration (for a list of the poets who read, see www.dialoguepoetry.org/protest.htm), and section two is from Dick Cheney's convention speech, with a finale by Mayor Bloomberg in reference to Pier 57, where protesters were held for processing.

i. The poets

Tonight we cast our poems like votes.

Of what is war the history?

The ogre does what ogres can.

If your culture is broke, extrapolate.
He put his foot in my teeth.
I'm not human.
Everybody looks the same in here,
these bloody clothes.

Poetry is the enemy of silence.

It is impolite this call
that will soon pluck
a son here, a daughter there.
The sight of the ones you love-
those you've met and those you haven't.

Prophets unaccounted for.
You'd be truly amazed at these constructions.

Matriot Act.
Down with the Tyrant.
This is the writing dance
written for all to see.
Sift sift thru the body parts.
Eyes looking back on themselves
before growing cold.
Talk the mad grammar.
Elephants move like this.

To speak of our isolation
or our special loneliness.

whose warmest heart recoiled at war.
i will not kiss your fucking flag.
clarion voices and boots.
there is some shit i will not eat.

When I say what things are like
everyone's heart must be torn to shreds.
His heart hanging out of his chest.
Please let me find the stillness where words begin.

Because no man is an island
but Manhattan is.
Because nobody should be President.
Because metaphors are lethal.

Terrorism: a many-headed hydra.

Whitman weeping in the back of Madison Square Garden.
I think this face is the face
of the Christ himself,
dead and divine.
Over the carnage rose, prophetic, a voice.

When the vaults are filled in St. Marks on the Bowery
how will the dead bury their dead?

The screaming had high heels on.
Carebears on adrenaline.
My unconscious could only get standing room.
Milk the roar.
Moralism stir-fry.

ii. The elephants

Armored vehicles
support American troops in combat.
A president we can count on to get it right.
America sees two John Kerrys: wisdom and humility.
George W. Bush is a man who speaks plainly
and means what he says.
Moral seriousness that calls evil by its name.
Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement
is with himself.
He is for the Patriot Act and against it.
Great divide of our time.
Every soul on earth who yearns to live in freedom.
The hour of decision, the choice is clear.
The signs are good, even in Massachusetts.
When America was created the stars
must have danced in the sky.
We will see our cause to victory.
Tonight I make this pledge.

It's not Club Med.

Hila Ratzabi's three-part poem, Playing Eve, will appear in the Fall, 2004 print edition of Zeek.

Image: From Jorge O. Aguirre Jr. and Amy Shuster, The Saddam Show

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