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.
He started it.
No, he started it.
No, his side started it.
No, your side started it.
No, people like you started it.
No, but we didn’t stop it.
No, it was his surrogates.
No, you’re the surrogate.
No one knows who started it, but we all know who’s responsible.
Yes, she is.
No, that’s not what I said, but it was what I meant.
Yes, she’s it.
She didn’t start it, but her people ran with it.
No, they more walked with it, back before they ran with it.
No, people who are like them started it, and then he ran with it.
No, people like you ran with it, after she started it.
No, the media started it, they start everything.
Your heritage is propaganda. Mine is history.
Your facts are name calling. Mine are truth.
Your free speech is dangerous. Mine is revolutionary.
Your honesty is poison. Mine is medicine.
My anger is powerful. Yours is impotent.
My victimhood is magnetic. Yours is weak and uninteresting.
My anarchy is patriotic. Yours is frightening and ungrateful.
Your questions are questions. Mine are answers.
You’re selling laundry detergent. I’m selling clean clothes.
I am not
I am proud of
I am afraid
I am afraid of
I am sure
I am not
I am not like
I agree with
I listen to
I don’t listen to
I am so I know best
I hate only because you love it
I control because I used to be one
I agree with under any circumstances
I suspect even while I’m asleep
I am afraid will find me if I fall in the bathtub
I am afraid wants my power
I am afraid of crawling into bed with me at night
I am sure will bring down the value of my house by moving in next door
I suspect is listening
I know has put a tracking device in my womb
I suspect does not have the right to remain silent
I listen to that I know
I believe have stolen my future
I don’t listen to that does not have a vagina
I suspect has not read The Cross and the Switchblade
I think is the antichrist we’ve been waiting for
I am sure are actively plotting my death
I listen to and no one else
I believe is seventy-six percent heretic, twenty percent liar, and four percent lunatic
I love because no one ever told me different
I am because I never got a choice
I need more than you do
I am proud of only when it belongs to someone else
I need right now
I want off my White House lawn
I want kept away from my children
I want to leave me alone and focus on you
***Answer key (choose your order): Academics, adulterers, Americans, an abortion survivor, anyone, bi-partisan, concealed weapons, confidence, emotional, everyone, floundering in life, government, green, identity papers, inexperienced with other races, Jesus, middleaged people, myself, my country, my cigarette brand, my doctor, my principles, my spouse, my withering influence, no one, not a fact checker, not a feminist, not what I aspired to be, old people, only immigrants from certain countries, people who know about modern art, people with disabilities, people who work for me, pretending I didn’t fuck in high school, questions about geography, recycling, racism, representation, slip-through borders, strangers, self-appointed prohibitionists, the animals we don’t eat, the fact that you have hair, the frayed rope pulling in the life preserver, the homeless, the image of two men kissing, the media, the new constitution I wrote while sitting on the toilet, the president, the slogan on an American flag backdrop, the supreme court, the terrorists, those two men on bicycles, undertakers, Waco, what I was promised, whatever you said, women with microphones, you personally, your candidate, your god, your degree, your experience, your sin, your sex, your time is not now