News Poem: ‘To Live in this Cemetery’



is to see the paradox of what we are

the fragile iron of our blood


is to wake and find the earth at dawn

enfolding you in abstract darkness

and sense that those in your memories

who stood waving flags as troops marched off

have driven you this particular moment insane


is to break down in a long cackle

and dance in your kitchen, your arms

above your head singing, “I live in a madhouse,

a madhouse, a madhouse. I live in a madhouse

and there’s nothing I can do.”

Dance like a goyish Tevya, dance upside down

on the ceiling as if painted by Chagall


is to make a ritual that spins

images into ideas: the John Philip Sousa

parade and what it costs us, the thousand

false gods and the lies we tell ourselves

is political and its denial is political


is to argue about a house

when it is—in its added sun-room—

the sum of thirty years and three children

or three hundred million


is to have love break you down so far

you look through different eyes

at the sunset of what was most alive

in a weed-ruined garden that shows

how lost you can be


is to reveal what writing is

as you put words down on paper

only to strike them through

and scribble others in the margins

from which new images will grow

“So much for ‘the post-racial society.’ For African Americans and other minorities it’s personal. For whites it’s more impersonal. I think of the images of police pepper-spraying U-Cal Davis students when they demonstrated in sympathy with “Occupy Wall St.” Many people I know realize that the “up-armoring” of local police forces is connected to a presupposition of political unrest so severe as to require massive arrests and the violence associated.

This is happening in locker-rooms and after-hours bars and softball games among police personnel. I mean the attitudes are being spread in off-duty hours that ‘the public is a volatile herd and you never know when they’ll turn on you.’ So much for ‘protect and serve.’

There can be the institution of ‘reconciliation’ in towns and cities. But as I see it, it’s all part of ‘divide and conquer.’ Turn the police against the people and the people will turn against all authority just as in Prohibition the general practice of drinking alcohol eroded respect for the rule of law itself.

Who does this benefit? Gun manufacturers. The Koch brothers. People who have learned to think like the Koch brothers from their propaganda and legislative campaigns throughout the states. More generally corporate life and feeling and thought seem to have shaped into a force inimical to democracy since WW II.

I wish it weren’t so. It’s not clear to me how much of what I see most threatening to a democratic US is in play each day. But since the establishment of the CIA, NSA & co. there has been a ‘the public can’t be trusted’ attitude growing. The people don’t want it but those who do are rich and powerful enough [they own the media and in a pattern that’s increasingly clear the ‘right’ will turn the truth upside-down, e.g. to monopolize the press and then claim there’s a ‘liberal media’ whereas the situation is that a ‘journalist’ will go along with this ‘point/counterpoint’ farce or not have a job] to drag the country unwillingly into wars in which corporate interests are assumed to be ‘in the national interest,’ which is not the case from any humanistic viewpoint. Quite apparently it’s all connected. The card up the sleeve is that anyone who sees the connections is automatically a ‘conspiracy nut,’ or ‘paranoid.” — Bill Tremblay

The Colorado Independent‘s News-Stained Poetry Project features poems that are about the news, products of the news, responses to the news. “News stained” is meant as a badge of honor, a reference to the long tradition of the poet as witness. As Carolyn Forché wrote, politics can sometimes be seen as a “contaminant to serious literary work,” something to be avoided. But that way of thinking, she said, “gives the political realm too much and too little scope… It renders the personal too important and not important enough.” News developments, whether or not they are reported, shape our personal lives every day. We don’t often think in the moment about how that is happening and what it means. We should think more about it. Poets think about it. And we want to help encourage them to write more about it.

Please send submissions to tips@www.coloradoindependent.comsubject line “poem,” with a short bio and some mention of where and when the poem was written.


Como Cemetery. Photo by Jonathan Brown

Bill Tremblay is an award-winning poet as well as a novelist, teacher, editor, and reviewer whose work has appeared in seven full-length volumes of poetry as well as the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Poetry, 2003. Mr. Tremblay edited Colorado Review for 15 years and spent thirty years teaching in and directing the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Colorado State University.