Sunday, April 6, 2014

The White House Has Disinvited the Poets

- Julia Alvarez

The White House has disinvited the poets
to a cultural tea in honor of poetry
after the Secret Service got wind of a plot
to fill Mrs. Bush’s ears with anti-war verse.
Were they afraid the poets might persuade
a sensitive girl who always loved to read,
a librarian who stocked the shelves with Poe
and Dickinson? Or was she herself afraid
to be swayed by the cooing doves, and live at odds
with the screaming hawks in her family?

The Latina maids are putting away the cups
and the silver spoons, sad to be missing out
on música they seldom get to hear
in the hallowed halls… The valet sighs
as he rolls the carpets up and dusts the blinds.
Damn but a little Langston would be good
in this dreary mausoleum of a place!
Why does the White House have to be so white?
The chef from Baton Rouge is starved for verse
uncensored by Homeland Security.

Instead the rooms are vacuumed and set up
for closed-door meetings planning an attack
against the ones who always bear the brunt
of silencing: the poor, the powerless,
the ones who serve, those bearing poems, not arms.
So why be afraid of us, Mrs. Bush?
you’re married to a scarier fellow.
We bring you tidings of great joy—
not only peace but poetry on earth.
{This piece was written after Laura Bush, wife of then-president George W. Bush, cancelled a tea for poets because many speakers planned on protesting the War on Iraq.} 

from: Poets Against the War, Sam Hamill, Sally Anderson, et al, ed.

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