by Matthew Stokdyk
part i, 11/9/2016
A quiet day on campus mall,
and only white men smile—
my head is bowed, my back is bent
along this silent mile.
I study hard the pavement’s grain,
my eyes I cannot raise.
And as I walk this endless track
I meet a hateful gaze.
He looks at me with sneering eyes
beneath a brim of red—
and though I’m sure he called me all,
I heard no words he said.
I raised my face and looked at him
without an ounce of ire—
and on I walked along the path,
untouched by tongues of fire.
And on we walk, with heads held high,
without a pang of shame—
and though we fear this chilly fall,
the world will know our names.
part ii, 3/9/2017
an oval room that’s now bedecked in amber
(fair Catherine’s greatest treasure),
once plundered by a fascist hand
(and plundered still, perhaps);
hail comrade, hail—
someone ought to tell Trumbo
that McCarthy failed.
a bust of Churchill sitting there
and watching on
the oilman holds our Mother by the nape
(can you see her flowing tears?)
and though we cry against the rape
the money stuffs the oilman’s ears
as each order is turned to the placid cameramen
standing silent all around
documenting the feeble hand
sunk in pockets
that sag to the sulfured ground.
The April rains, through stormy strife,
come here to give the flowers life;
and would that art not wilt
(if it ever truly bloomed?)
before the butcher’s hand
when paint from cuts is spilt
words penned for doom
by a shaking hand
but underneath this fatal reign
and greying skies
it seems our hopes will flower up
if but to die
Churchill didn’t really say
the cause of defense was art;
so his face offers only a disapproving glance.
so let us say it;
we might never have another chance.
Originally featured in the First 100 Days gallery, an exhibit on the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. It was curated by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee in Spring 2017. The poem was written in two pieces, the first coming the day after Donald Trump's election and the second roughly four months afterward. The piece was originally presented with fairly extensive notes (in which I made absurd and nonsensical comparisons between the second part of this poem and the The Waste Land), though I will refrain from adding them here.
Matthew Stokdyk © 2018. All rights reserved.