Not for me the fumbling
uncertainty of death by water,
I sought the clarity
of metal against flesh,
the bulletís silver-
quick resolution.

No way to explain.
All I could say was
Iím free from the desert at last,
from the smell of scorpion
villages, burnt bones and sullen faces.

I didnít serve my country.
I was bound over,
bundled with sticks
on an altar of petroleum,
part of a pack of mechanical dogs,
knowing everything:
the nothing of fear
and the fear of nothing.

My last duty was to scratch away
the faces staring from my
ID cards, shoot out the
offending mirrors on my
pickup truck, take careful aim
at the dog tags dangling
from my wrinkled brow
and squeeze the trigger.


Many middle class
Americans, finding their
homes underwater,
their earnings balked,
their future not worth mentioning,
are turning to the latest craze,
an absorbing combination
of reality TV and cyber

The Adopt a Plutocrat program
enables you and your family
to vicariously experience
the glamorous life of your own
personal financial services executive.

The small monthly fee
provides access to the most
intimate details
of your executiveís life,
youíll spend your evenings
opening bonus checks,
balancing your Swiss accounts,
making life-changing
decisions like which yacht to buy,
which country club to join,
what color scheme to employ
decorating your corner office.

Letís face it.
Youíll never live this way.
Itís fast food and the sixty-inch
digital screen for you, cowboy,
weíre offering you
a lifeline, an extended silicon hand,
a way out.


halfway to Reagan territory
Bush sits in the front row
holding the stuffed and
mounted nine pound
bass that highlights
his eight year reign as
his successor, the Ken Doll
who looks square-shouldered
posing with a grenade launcher,
comes out for abstinence and
denies any human role
in global warming, unveils
his jobs program calling
for America to defeat China
in the wage war, reducing pay
checks until
                            Ďall them other countriesíll
outsource their jobs to us.í

Striking a manly figure,
Perry the Powerful perhaps or
Rack Perry, the nationís leading executioner,
he warns fed chairman
Bernake not to print more money or
come down to Texas,
where theyíd
                            Ďtreat him ugly.í

Iím leaving now, seen the movie before,
the one where an instant widow
in a pink dress reaches out
for the rest of a leaderís head
as a black limousine speeds forward.


The dictatorís weak chin
juts from a billboard as
the beady eyes dare
anyone to smirk or throw
rocks and a town
bakes under a silent sun

a tank rumbles on noisy metal treads
past a solitary leaning palm,
scattered bodies thrown
down on desert sand,
washed to the side of city

when the father
punishing his children
goes insane
the sounds
can be heard
for miles.

San Francisco-based poet Michael Shorb's work reflects an abiding interest in environmental issues, history, and the lyrical form. His poems have appeared in over 100 magazines and anthologies, including The Nation, The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, Queen's Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg Review, Commonweal, Rattle, Urthona, Underground Voices, The Great American Poetry Show and European Judaism. His collection, Whale Walkers Morning, will appear in Winter 2013 from Shabda Press.

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