Sunday, September 23, 2007


The poem below, by Tony Hoagland, was first published (in Third Coast) in 1997, but ten years later it reads as if it was written yesterday in expectation of the season that officially starts today.

Congress wasn't even back in session yet when this past summer, now just slowly receding, the newspapers and newsprograms were saturated with the humiliations of Larry Craig, who was driven into public bathroom stalls by Senator Larry Craig, whose voting record on issues impacting the lives of queer citizens earned him a rating of zero by the Human Rights Campaign. And Congress was not yet back in session when we witnessed the blatant homophobia evidenced by the double standard of many Republican members of Congress who enthusiastically applauded Senator David Vitter (R. - Louisiana) in July after he was caught on the phone list of a D.C. "madame" and admitted to hiring prostitutes, but who then crossed the distance they put between themselves and the apparently gay or bisexual Idaho Senator only to urge him to resign. And now, with elected officials all across the country going back to their work in the federal and state legislatures, and with the Primary Campaigns in full swing, we will most likely be hearing a lot about gay marriage, and gay men and lesbians in the military, and any other related topic that the fearmongering among the representatives and
candidates can exploit to grab headlines or votes, or both.

Ahhhh, the fall season. I love it. But along with sweater-weather, good films, and nature's blatant and awe-inspiring beauty, we get to look forward to the perennial bullshit. Happy First Day of Autumn.


Autumn and the trees decide again they don't
need leaves. Mothers add more blankets to the bed.
Yellow lights in windows of the junior high
mean that nightschool is back in session,
tired grownups sitting in the plastic desks
learning to bisect the hypotenuse,
how to say spreadsheet in Japanese.
This week on the televised hearings,
we get to watch our congressmen
nervously pronounce the word homosexual
in public; the committee trying to determine
whether queers are good enough
to pull the triggers
on machines designed to foreclose lives
contrary to the national well-being,
--but the Congressman can't
pull the trigger on his own tongue
to fire out the word without
tripping over it, fumbling, stumbling
into the ditch between home and sexual.
--You might say his defense industry is troubled,
as if he had a subterranean suspicion
that to say it might mean, just a little, to become it,
which might be right--since language uses us
the way that birds use sky, the way that seeds and viruses
knit themselves into a mammal's fur
and hitchhike towards the future.
When you say a word,
you enter its vocabulary,
its got your home address, your phone number, and weight;
it won't forget;
the way the parents who finally bring themselves to say lesbian
enter, through that checkpoint,
the country where their daughter lives.
Tonight, all over Washington, senators in mirrors
will practice
until they are as fluent saying homosexual
as they already are at saying Mr. President and first strike option.
Sometimes we think the truth is the worst thing that could happen
but the truth is not the worst thing that could happen.
Now it is autumn and in stores
the turquoise wading pools,
spangled with starfish and shells,
are stacked against the wall, on sale,
implying what was costly yesterday
is cheap today, and may be free tomorrow:
all our yearnings and our fears
--so many seahorses
galloping through bubbles.


sam of the ten thousand things said...

Enjoyed comments and the poem. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

i like the way you connect poetry and politics. good post. ever been to the web site different from yours in tone and main focus, and it has nothing to do with poetry, but it is a good site.