Tag Archives: politics

The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart  

This poet grew up with an activist father and he certainly took it to heart as you’ll see in this poem.  That the concept of compromise is offered in school amazes me. I also remember my own unwillingness to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and wish today that we lived in a world where compromises seem possible.

The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart                              Martín Espada

At twelve, I quit reciting

the Pledge of Allegiance,

could not salute the flag

in 1969, and I,

undecorated for grades or sports,

was never again anonymous in school.


A girl in homeroom

caught my delinquent hand

and pinned a salute

against my chest;

my cafeteria name was Commie,

though I too drank the milk

with presidential portraits on the carton;

but when the school assembly stood

for the flags and stiff soldiers’ choreography

of the color guard,

and I stuck to my seat

like a back pocket snagged on coil,

the principal’s office

quickly found my file.

A balding man in a brown suit

asked me if I understood compromise,

and we nodded in compromise,

a pair of Brooklyn wardheelers.


Next assembly, when the color guard

marched down the aisle,


I stood with the rest,

then pivoted up the aisle,

the flags and me

brushing past each other

without apologies,

my unlaced sneakers

dragging out of the auditorium.


I pressed my spyglass eye

against the doors

for the Pledge:

no one saw my right hand

crumpled in a pocket

instead of spreading

across my sacrilegious heart.


Ceremony done, the flagpoles

pointed their eagle beaks at me,

and I ducked

under their shifting banner wings

back to my seat,

inoculated against staring,

my mind a room after school

where baseball cards

could be stacked by team

in a plastic locker.



“Russia is big and so is China”

This poem is funny and odd. It reads like sentence fragments stuck together. It can be frustrating to try and grasp meaning from. For a bit you might think the poet is trying to bridge ideas and create balance or has been collecting statements from overheard conversations. Is this what an expanded conversation in tweeting is like? In the end it truly makes as much sense as some of our politicians, so the beginning (and the rest of it) is quite apt and contemporary.

“Russia is big and so is China”                                                           Steve Fellner

overheard statement from President Bush at summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao

Monopoly is fun and so is strip poker.

The weather is nice and so is this iced tea.

Porcupine quills are sharp and so is that pair of scissors.  Be careful, ok?

The baby across the aisle from you is loud and so is some rap music.

The GED was hard and so was bungee jumping.

Pink is a color and so is salmon.  Salmon is also a fish.

Bruce Willis is still hot and so is Kurt Cobain, though he’s dead.

Stoplights are annoying and so are brussel sprouts.

Vitamin C is good for you and so is exercise.

I could stand to lose ten pounds and so could you.

I am lazy and you don’t have anywhere else to be.

North Korea is fidgety and so is my little sister.  No Ritalin for her.

I am horny and so are most of my dumb friends.

Seven is more than three and so is eight.

The news is strange and so is my hairdresser.

Model airplanes are frustrating and so are summits.

Poisoned Halloween candy is creepy and so is Anthrax.

Used dental floss is icky and so are missiles.

Nuclear weapons are large and so is my penis.

Metaphors are always obvious and so is common sense.

Wisdom is cheap and so is bus fare.

Solar energy is easy and so is my ex-boyfriend Nick.

Armageddon is a bummer and so is Picasso.


This isn’t a poem that leaps gladly from the lips, rather it stumbles on the tongue. It helps to know the poet is a teacher and activist. From accounts that I’ve read, her activism took first priority in her life. With all of that in mind, I hope you’ll find the poem of value.

It helps to know poets have long been feared by governments striving to overcome those who pursue freedom of voice. Poets have been executed and jailed for such. When you get to the end of the poem don’t miss the words about Cassandra. She was a prophet whose words were discounted yet her prophecies came to pass.

Responsibility                                                                                    Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners

giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets

also leaflets you can hardly bear to look at

because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy

to hang out and prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes

It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory

towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C

and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power as the

Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the


It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no

freedom without justice and this means economic

justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original

and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it

on in the way storytellers decant the story of life

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no

freedom unless

earth and air and water continue and children

also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on

this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be

listened to this time.