Poetry, June 2010

A SMUGGLED LETTER              

I live in an asylum     
Where conscience is forbidden      
Our fat keepers      
Are ourselves      
So they treat us well      
At feeding time      
Our troughs are full      
We lack nothing essential      
And if we never complain      
And make our own beds      
And march in formation      
To perform assigned chores      
Our keepers allow us      
To murder our children.                      

by Ed Stone

The occasions increase
When we must prove
That we can love.
The opportunities fall
All around us
Like rice
At a wild wedding. 

Or like strings
Of lighted firecrackers
Flacking the dizzy air
On the Fourth of July.
These days and nights
Circumstances are flowering
Like cancers of blue bones
Testing the invisible marrow
Of being human.
This test 
Is the last. 

by  Ed Stone


Wonderful story
of Gus Hall
in the prison yard,
heart of McCarthyism fifties

told over and over  again
inside the Party in later years
no one sure if it really happened,
embroidered, or made 
out of whole cloth,

in the end
maybe doesn’t matter,
having taken on
aura of  working  class myth

like the coal miner who shouted
you can’t mine coal with bayonets,

or the textile worker ‘s
we want bread, but we want
roses also,

Gus playing baseball in the yard,
tough looking Italian guy
asking him who he is
and what’s he in for,

he says, Gus Hall,
a leader of the Communist Party,

-- advocating the overthrow
of the government –
real poppycock,

(actually we were  taking a stand
against the banks and corporations)

the guy standing back
a minute, marone,
scratching his head
as he calls his friends over,

Gus there,
third day in the yard,
not yet knowing 
what to expect,

bracing for  the worst, perhaps, 
hoping for the best,

but knowing enough that,
whatever happens, as in the steel mill,
the important thing is
to stand one’s  ground

then, just as quickly
as he asked the question,
the same guy goes on
to introduce him
to others in the yard

as if he was head
of some rival tribe
he had not yet heard of 
and worthy of some respect,

head of the bank robbers
meet Gus Hall,
head of the Communist Party,
head of the fencers
meet Gus Hall,
head of the Communist party,
head of the the numbers runners,
meet Gus Hall,
head of the Communist Party

and so on
and so forth
until it was time
for roll call.

Later, after the others leave, 
one guy who had been listening
real quiet in the corner,
pipes up,

” you’ll find the grub   
is not as bad in the third line
on Fridays and Sundays. 

Ask for Tony
at the commissary
and tell him Louie G. said
to take care of you.”

“Communist Party,
he says,  
pausing thoughtfully. 

“You are the guys  
J. Edgar Hoover
really hates.
I heard of you guys.

You  are the ones who
organize the unorganized
and stick up
for the working people.

Man, I thought
we were bad.
We just rob

You guys
want it all.”

by Chris Butters

Originally appeared in Pemmican.

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