(after the style of W H Auden's "Voltaire at Ferney")
A Lucky, grateful man home from the US sphere
An exile, self-expatriated, free at last
From much that had defined me in my mediocre past
Like fear that I’d not live to see my sons grown men
As father, who died young, did not. But that was then.
In my own land an alien, so why not also here?
“Poetry makes nothing happen.” Auden said it.
A statement true, insightful, and intelligent,
About polemics couched in verse penned by the passed and gone,
Aimed at the king’s abuses of the knight and pawn
Conscripted into companies for sale or rent
By those promoting war, who scarcely dread it.
Who reads this stuff? An “optimist” like poor Candide?
Who in the best of worlds found himself badly made.
Voltaire in neutral Switzerland had reasons to disguise
His royal targets in a cloak of comic shade.
Made ludicrous in metaphor, I recognize
Myself, impatient peasant poet gone to seed.
The time remaining dwindles yet the wars drag on
Few heed the blunted barbs and abstract angst implied
By similes connoting corpses in their shrouds interred;
By witticisms quaint; not stated but inferred;
Too indirect in style to name the ones that died
Or those who murdered millions, Satan’s spawn.
It makes no earthly matter which of two will win.
Both puppets owned by oligarchs will do the same.
Republicans will order. Democrats will ask
How best to beat down labor, their appointed task.
Republicans, for wealth, will set the world aflame.
The Democrats, we know, will bluster and give in.
“Don’t worry, they’re not Jesuits!” the natives cried,
Relieved to learn these White men wanted only gold.
Of Corporate rapacity, they had not yet been told:
That each and every resource any where around,
Including lakes of oil that lay beneath the ground,
These thieves would claim. Resistance, they would not abide.
“At least they’ll let us keep our souls,” the hopeful wished.
“No profits can there be in those,” or so they thought.
The businessman, they’d yet to learn, sold dear and cheaply bought
Just like the priests who lease or sell salvation. “See?
It costs us nothing yet the serfs will pay a fee
To dream of the eternal pond from which they’re fished.”
Against the killing of the light some men will rage,
And women, too; and some unsure; it matters not.
The poem’s a thing in which the country’s conscience, if it lives,
Is caught, and maybe purpose to the nation gives.
If otherwise, these lines will languish, left to plot
Rebellion unrevealed upon the passing page.
Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright © 2019