Election Poems is a listening project. The poems you will read in this series document and respond to the politicized non-dialogue that seems to have invaded all forms of conversation these days, and the gas balloon of portent that’s escaping the seams. This is also a personal project. The content comes exclusively from my own listening experience, meaning conversations that people have had with me or things they have said in my presence, for better or worse, from the 2008 election cycle to the present. The results are not always easy to digest, and many of the poems deal with painful, disturbing, or incendiary ideas that have not gone away, as our current election season so aptly reminds us. But to be clear, the project is not about politicians, pundits, or campaigns, or the rhetorical moves they make in order to earn a vote, or tell the story of a given election. It is about everyone who is not running for office, and who/how we are to each other in an era where politics infuses everything.
For more information about this series and its concept, check out the introductory post. Previous poems can also be found on the series page. A new installment and image will appear every Tuesday from now through November 2016 (one week post-election), featuring poems from throughout the project, as well as a new one written specifically for the current week. The poems are titled by number, but will not appear in order.
I can’t decide for you
but you can’t decide for yourself
so maybe committing isn’t the smartest thing to do
let’s not make it official
like who you like
but don’t go steady
with that button
keep your fingers away
in that little booth
under the curtains
people will know what you’re doing in there
your grandpa can see you from heaven
boys will think you’re fast
and soon, no one will want your vote anymore
you should really be in love
saving it for a special someone
that you haven’t even met yet
when it happens, you’ll know
and in the meantime
you can’t get
like an electoral college down there
if you abstain
good girls wait
till it doesn’t matter
We know. Who made this mess and who had to pick it up. Who’s responsible for our problems and who is trying to solve them. Who was wrong because they didn’t listen then, and who’s wrong because they’re listening now. Who’s right because they pulled out so quick, and who’s right because they went in so quick. Whose fault it is that families lost their houses, and whose fault it is that the wrong families ever got houses. Who is giving handouts and who is feeling entitled. Whose policy is policy, and whose is manifesto. Who’s against us, and with us, and hurting us, and saving us. Who will never be invited to dinner.
I’ll just assume. They have all the advantages, and don’t care about our problems. I’ll lose my advantage if I even pretend to care about their problems. Because of where they live, they’re probably dumb, racist, sexist, xenophobic, evangelical, uneducated, living in a bubble, frightened of other people’s sex organs, or happy under someone’s thumb. Because of who they choose to protect, they’re probably smug, naïve, dangerous, elitist, politically correct, not in the military, against hunting and corn syrup, raising their children to be self-centered wimps, raising chickens instead of start-up capital. What I will never need to understand.