Newspoem 24 September 2004

In the baking asphalt
we stand in line with
college students of some leftward
bent. "Register to vote in
Pennsylvania?" "Dude! Go to
Iraq!" shouts a woman to anyone who seems to be endorsing the opposition. Young, beautiful, shabbily-dressed, generally unathletic pro-choicers, Democrats, potheads. & me & Scott, all of the above. I have a bronchial infection. It might be the last warm day of the year. Multitudes. The line barely moving, stretching endlessly ahead. Redwhiteblue balloons hang above a park. Is there a sense of political solidarity here? or more of a decisive splintering. Idealists and opportunists alike work the crowd, accruing signatures, selling buttons. WHEN CLINTON LIED, NOBODY DIED. Suddenly a flock of Bush sycophants erupt in a chorus of "four more years." This is the site then of ideological conflict. Or how ideological is it, really? But what if something happens? In this trampled park, some conflagration. As I am admiring redwhiteblue balloons that seem somehow oppressively spherical one of them pops and I stumble. U2 from PA. My main motivation to jog is to practice running for my life. Did you ever want to be pretty and right? A city crowds around this campus, a Sheraton looming over these assembled democrats. Many of us apparently patient and content to be kept waiting.

Another balloon pops. Paul Wellstone.

Will I be able to see him when he speaks? Will the PA amplify his aura? Bare shoulders and a camcorder. Should have worn my sandals. A person has started speaking from an unseen podium, riling the crowd. From our position the amplifier is followed a half-second later by an echo rebounding from a college building. Unintelligible, invisible, the ferocity of the oration is compelling but self-defeating given the acoustics. Scott points out where to look to see the stage. "Go get me bin Laden, if you don't already have him stashed away as an election stunt." A repeated refrain is especially rhythmic with the reverberation. "This election is about jobs." I want this election to be about peace, the next election about jobs. We work our way up through Democratic elected officials as each says a few words. We reach congress and finally we hear it: "cowboy diplomacy." The crowd goes wild, and speaker is astute, continuing: "Iraqitize Iraq." John, not Dick. Now the guy is campaigning. A mention of the NRA provokes booing. A field of erect signs, a sense of being on TV, huge balloons lodged in trees. Basic dignity for every person in America. Pro-choice, cheer, pop. The heat is smothering. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of the stage. 39 days left.

Among the ideas taken as given by today's speakers:
1. The government should serve its constituency.
2. Dick Cheney is a profiteering war criminal.
3. Texas is a wasteland.

Words, not birds. Even a confusing syntax may provoke applause if performed with precisely ascending emphasis. I am weak and sit. A field of sneakers. When the bomb goes off the bodies of the undergraduates will absorb its impact and I may be saved from blindness or decapitation. But in the ensuing riot I will have to be prepared to drag Scott to safety. A chord suggests it is almost Kerry's turn. What if an American presidential candidate chose a mode of music other than rock? Don't worry, be happy. What inexplicable thoughts lurk in the skulls about? How inextricable is paranoia from the American mindset? Fear of deprivation can suffice for progressive thought, fear of death for an anti-war stance. Springsteen. A distant candidate rolls up powder blue shirtsleeves, high-fives someone, waves. There he is: crux of destiny? compromise? or a losing presidential candidate of negligible historic consequence? He leans down and palms Democrats in the inner ring. And still someone else's turn to speak. Metonymy: Kerry will not go to Iraq without his friends and allies. It would have been more truthful to say "Kerry will not go to Iraq." Will Kerry save us, making this notebook a historic document? Is the honey-voiced Edwards up there somewhere? Will we be able to hear Kerry say a few words before we get a parking ticket? Sitting sick in the grass in the hot sun among students, I am falling asleep. Noise to signal ratio. Kerry is for the middle class, the speaker says, Bush is for the upper class. The lower class has been left out of the discussion. The language is sick of me. Kerry is still gesticulating at the crowd and perhaps it is a peace sign he holds up. From this distance I cannot tell.

Newspoetry at Spineless Books