TCS: WHY VOTE? Poetry Tells Us What All the Polls Leave Out

Good Morning!

Coffee cup

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

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ELECTION 2016

by Nona Blyth Cloud

gotv-dont-complain-vote

The TV Ad says “Your Vote is Your Voice”
forget the braying and the trumpeting
and just remember that one —
Because for-real the question is:
“What Do You Want to Say?”
Now you’re standing in the booth

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MORE! 

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Here are some thoughts from poets that cover what the polls never do:


From the 1840s, a reminder of what the right to vote would mean to the many people in the world who have no say about their government.

The Poor Voter on Election Day

by John Greenleaf Whittier

The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.

To-day, alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known;
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!

Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!

The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.

To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.

To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land;civil-war-era-photo-marked-by-cushing-woodstock-vt
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!

While there’s a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dust, —

While there’s a right to need my vote,
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day!

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What does this next poem have to do with election day? What we see on our way to the polls is how things are — our votes say how we think things should be.

Election Day 

by William Carlos Williams

Warm sun, quiet airold-man-and-his-dog-pic
an old man sits

in the doorway of
a broken house—

boards for windows
plaster falling

from between the stones
and strokes the head

of a spotted dog

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This poem is about the 1973 police killing of 10-year-old Clifford Glover, shot in the back and “dead at the scene” — and the trial that followed. The celebratory words spoken by the shooter, Officer Thomas Shea, and his partner were recorded from their walkie-talkies by the dispatcher. When the precinct commander arrived, he took a look at the dead boy and asked the shooter, “Didn’t you recognize that he was a kid?” Shea’s reply is in Lorde’s poem. After the fact, Shea “thought he had a gun,” which was never found in a massive search that followed. 

Power

by Audre Lorde

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” andprotesters-in-queens-sml
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color.” And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

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Corporations are trying to drown out our voices with Money, which we are told is now protected “Speech.“ George Orwell could tell you what that means. 

Money

by Dana Gioia

Money is a kind of poetry. – Wallace Stevens

Money, the long green,
cash, stash, rhino, jack
or just plain dough.

Chock it up, fork it over,
shell it out. Watch it
burn holes through pockets.

To be made of it! To have it
to burn! Greenbacks, double eagles,1921-morgan-silver-dollar-value-crop
megabucks and Ginnie Maes.

It greases the palm, feathers a nest,
holds heads above water,
makes both ends meet.

Money breeds money.
Gathering interest, compounding daily.
Always in circulation.

Money. You don’t know where it’s been,
but you put it where your mouth is.
And it talks.

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And finally, the best reason I know to vote.

Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,el-segundo-blue-butterfy
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

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  • Mad Englishman Near the Midnight Sun will resume next week, when at long last, this election will be over.

IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY VOTED,
PLEASE — GO TO THE POLLS TOMORROW.

i-voted-sticker

Thank you!

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About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 45 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
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2 Responses to TCS: WHY VOTE? Poetry Tells Us What All the Polls Leave Out

  1. Sometimes it comes late, but Karma does play out. Earlier this year, on Wednesday June 6, former Officer Thomas Shea entered a guilty plea for disability fraud. He had to make restitution in the amount of $622,843 and was sentenced to three months in jail.

    He had submitted claims for Social Security disability while working three different jobs.

    Welfare queen indeed.

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