UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY

ANNE VALLEY-FOX

Election day, 2008

The undecided have finally made up their minds or gone into hiding
the rest of us are babbling brooks
a friend reports she’s too keyed up to sleep at night
an armchair economist suffers visions of sea-view mansions
sliding onto the highway
a guy on the street loves the idea of young kids in the White House
even so he’s decided to vote for the older man with experience
someone at the mall holds up a sign: “$ for health & education
not foreign wars!”
Candidate A declares his opponent intends to spread the wealth
“Boo!” the crowd hisses
Candidate B will “take out” the leader of Pakistan if necessary
Progressives react with scalded tongues
an elder warns that whenever we hang our hope on someone else’s
shoulders he or she will surely break our hearts
Howard Zinn’s radio voice whirs like electric beaters mixing a cake
as a young navigator he dropped bombs on civilians
in World War II he didn’t think about what he was doing then
but now he does
we live in a hair-trigger nuclear world
not to mention the mega-business of conventional weapons
a speaker repeats what someone in Latin America once wrote on a wall
“Let’s save pessimism for better times”
a Congolese mother cradles a dying baby
mute with hunger her older children straggle back to the village
along the road armed rebels wait for the treaty to snap
the mother tells the tv reporter she’d rather be shot by rebels
than watch her children starve to death
here there’s a media flap over the price of a candidate’s wardrobe
and is it a plus for a woman to shoot a moose?
canvassers knock on the door
“War is no longer an option for solving conflicts” Professor Z concludes
and R. D. Laing in the ‘60s: “Going crazy may be a sane response
to an insane situation”
plain as the noses on our faces
eat of this cake and quadruple in size like Alice
think outside of the keyhole
both candidates reference prices at the pump
both invoke worried breadwinners around their kitchen tables
last summer we only wanted our soldiers home from Iraq
candidate B is saying yes but also we must double
our troops in Afghanistan
a shopkeeper offers some common sense: but haven’t we seen
on 60 Minutes (or maybe it’s Bill Moyers)
Afghanistan craggier than the moon
and Pashtun warlords staking human heads
along the Pakistani border?
an early voter pulled the lever before she realized
that voting a straight ticket excluded the President
she exits the booth weeping
voting rights activists explain the practical complications
working class people cannot afford to stand in line for hours
they have to get back to work or pick up their children at daycare
for weeks we’re barraged with pre-recorded telephone messages
please be sure to go to the polls next Tuesday
how could we forget?
unless something looms larger
a child’s fever rocketing off the charts
a composer’s engulfment by runaway notes
the pollsters insist they are not seers they only report the numbers
but you can see their mouths twitching
matrons for the Grand Old Party are waving flags at a rally
smiling hard like sunlight on fields of ice
what does it mean to wave the flag?
what did it ever mean?
if everything has already happened
history might wise us up
but truth in politics doesn’t equate with a hard look in the mirror
“Election Day” unfurls like a banner across the morning dark
maybe today the American people (whoever we prove to be)
will shove the juggernaut over a cliff
maybe today a Congolese mother stealing back to the village
will dig up something to feed her starving children









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