Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Muddy Waters

And the floods came with impunity and disregard for rank
They filled the marble halls with brackish waves
Washing away recriminations and illusions of grandeur
Till all that was left was flesh and bone
The king's clothes wet, the detritus of the bay clung to undergarmets, silk, and cotton alike
The contours of labyrinthical hallways made apathetic to your destination
Encasing you in its watery grasp for an indefinite ride
Caucusing tangled bodies into murky depths

Bodies...of water, of work, of knowledge, of Congress
were Congress a body! sinewy tendons of hackneyed statements,
elastic ligaments of moral direction,
firing synapses of rerun debates.

Every 8 years your body regenerates itself,
Flakes of skin are left, DNA abandoned everywhere you walk,
Cells expelled from all orifices and osmosis pushes the senior citizens off the plank
washed down the drain with the body wash bubbles.
Like the fresh summer interns and the grad school bound LAs,
the mid-career Directors and old-friend Chiefs - old, new, in, out, ebb, flow
Every two years the fire hydrant is uncapped and trained upon the body of Congress
a high-pressure stream:
cling for life or be expelled.

This is the body of Congress which shall be given up for you.
Kept clean, scrubbed, sparkling, coiffed, shiny, gleaming.
Yet messy inside.
You need an MD to navigate a human body.
You need a willing ear and a hearty sense of entitlement to navigate Congress.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When Everyone Was To Be Trusted

Perhaps the greatest joy
is of the astounded child,
realizing how small she is
in comparison
to the massive, ominous force in front of her.
She is but a beetle to a mountain
(a lady-beetle, she'd tell you,
with her dotted, patriotic sundress, minus the blue -
"that's for boys!")

She imagines herself upon the pseudo-altar
(Oh, how the Presider's chair presents no real power!)
with the Senators around her,
like the spots on her dress.

Eventually, her father grows bored
gets restless
wonders why he came to the Chamber
realizes that his daughter could be Gillibrand
or Boxer.
But hopefully Gillibrand.
Still, his stomach calls out louder
than the Quorum
ever could.

As she ascends
the gallery steps, her eyes,
void of any cynicism,
meet mine.
Her penetrating smile reflects on my face
and she waves at the Page,
bluer than blue in body and soul.
(not just for boys anymore).

Perhaps the greatest sorrow is in her countenance,
when I cannot wave back.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Artist of the Floating Word

Once I waded into myself so deep and found someone
devoid of empathy and humor
Just as once I strayed too deeply
into the Congressional echo chamber
- hear me out -
until the words jumped around the soggy
palimpsest and formed a pool of rhyme:

They were self-referential till their comfort became preferential to the meaning
And the language’s host deferential only to its intent
Because America is not America without freedom
And freedom is not free

Of taxes, jobs, guns and stewardship and education and health care
The partiality of their arrangement
Mocks the reality of their symphony
For the words, the words do not sing solo, only harmonize
Only prioritize the spectral location of the engagement
Hone upon political leanings
Of the speaker and the gleanings of his life’s storied culmination

Because there is no higher rumination
Than the selfless aspiration to own the words
To incarcerate the dialogue, to perforate the anachronistic trope
With modern day sensibilities and the responsibility
of Hope, the insinuation of Change

But can Change be wrought of words?
The campaign of poetry gave way to a government of prose and I lamented
Not the death of the revolution
but the weary repose and devolution of the language
I blinked and it was gone, tearfully winked
at the recycled copy and re-masticated pleas
for compromise, for placated dreams, the cauterized phrases.

Turn the words inside out, you say! Mull the sentence over,
Churn it into a curd, let it ferment
into the culled canon of Congressional herebys and therebys and soforths and henceforths
Strike the articles and Repeat, always Repeat!
they tell the novices of rhyme, the apprentices of English poetic time

As well the speechwriters of desolation row, looking fitfully for some variation in their copy
Until they realize that the domination of legislation
Follows only the fortification of the words
That is to say, construction of the legislative function
Comes only at the price of aesthetic destruction
For he who most debases the bottom line
and chooses the lowest common denominator over a nuanced sublime
Builds also a guarded fort of power’s vaunted shrine.

So finally, dripping with self-indulgence,
I emerged, no longer feeling cornered by words but smiling with affection for them
For this is not where they go to die but only
to fake their own drowning, pulled to air sputtering and laughing at your concern.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Will the witness genuflect

To the good people of Madisonville?

Indeed, the witness will indulge

The easiest gesture of those hours –

To audit such concerns with grand patience

And assure those problems will improve,

Like a child’s boo-boo.

The witness will do this a few times.

The witness, while in gesture,

Will hear the startled applause of cameras

That, in this century, still clap their shutters,

Which snap to attention

At raised hands, or props. Especially props.

To make it feel like you were there.

The witness, there,

Will answer through such clatter, unheard.

Men and women from cable will sit,

Distant, faces turned to the star of the witness,

And move their jowls

In ways strikingly lifelike.

They will slouch and rise and

They will whisper when not talking.

In the gallery, unmoored eyes

Will wander upon fixtures

That rise high in art deco swoops,

Contrasting in complement to Corinthian capitals,

Gilded, new but showing age,

Held gracelessly, in cells in a box.

In that one cell, the witness will press on,

In soft slog and sharp parry.

The witness knows rancor

Will release in decorous bursts,

And had caused laughs among vassals

With the erupting language of right riposte.

The witness, though, will say things

The witness, in prudence, must say.

Those things are small.

When great things are said, they are said

In grand chambers studded with fasces, or below

Corinthian capitals standing sentry above grand fields.

Everyone will know the witness’ predicament

To exist in reference to these great things.

Then, later, after everybody leaves,

They will always go back to democracy.

-Anonymous Aide

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is the Spring of Exploding Watermelons

The rapture came to Alabama
swirling, black, miles wide
Those who were fixing to matriculate
found themselves looking down on
an empty quad, a university rising
from rubble and mud like DC by Tyber Creek
They didn't want to leave Alabama,
the chosen--so the good lord brought
The winds across Lawrence County
like he always did, but this time
flung them deep into Appalachia,
raising mountains from fire ant mounds,
Lookout and Brindlee Mountains
snowcapped or lava, circled by birds and Frenchmen,
on that broad dome a thousand springs fed Atlanta
If heaven isn't much like this I reckon I'll go back home,
that's what he said in a pickup riding
thermals with turkey buzzards
My grandfather didn't cross the county line
unless he had an invitation to sing gospel
then he'd go to Texas, Tennessee, Missouri,
Now he's seen the Sahara and the dust bowl
the way the water's coming up
Guntersville lake will reach New Orleans
and we can go duck hunting on Pontchartrain
dodge riverboats with cotton, oil slicks,
shipments of watermelons coming out of china

by Zack Fields

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Their Secret Lives

From outside they look stoic enough.

But Hart and Longworth are making eyes at each other from across the way knowing, in that way they do, that they are the most attractive and belong together.
Longworth is that skinny girl who always likes to be seen in between larger girls to make herself feel better.
Hart needs that giant atrium to hold his ego and preens facing the sunrise every morning, secure in his modernity.
Dirk is blindly loyal to Hart's charismatic charms, clinging to him, constantly seeking his approval, playing the class clown.
Russell tags along because there's no one else, perched as he is on a vast wasteland of green.

Cannon glances at Russell shyly while she fends off advances from the gawky nerd next door, that guy who's always lending her books to read as if the book will somehow convey his love.
Speaking of nerds, the Court glances coolly around at her colleagues with the smug knowledge that she is the smartest one there. No one talks to her out of intimidation. She thinks everyone hates her and ignores them, thus fulfilling the secret intuition.

The East wing of the Gallery stays smugly out of politics and concerns himself with The Aesthetic. Under his tousled thick hair and black-rimmed glasses he sprawls carefully across his chair and affects a fascinated a look while the American Indian museum weaves beautiful stories of Time before Now. The two of them sip exotic teas and exchange philosophical paradigms while Rayburn strains to hear them over the Botanical Gardens.

You could stand at the edge of their conversation and be completely ignored for 20 minutes. Dirk calls it "getting I.M. Pei'ed" and he and Hart laugh uproariously as though it were the funniest thing since the Animal House midnight showing.
Sewall-Belmont overhears their jokes and rolls her eyes contemptuously at the buffoons she must share space with.
Russell feigns a smile at the boys jokes and turns to the north, ostensibly to smoke a cig. But he just stares at Burnham's Union Station, a fine speciman of marble, classical, unpretentious in his beauty.
Russell sighs and lines up at C St., ready to dash through the parks at Union's casual beckon.
O, the scandal that would be!

Rayburn, underneath the love-handles and tough-girl exterior, wants desperately to eschew the political world and join the academic deep-thinkers on the Mall. Realizing that she lacks the intellectual acumen, she retreats into her emotional depth, her confusing corridors of partisan sophistry, contenting herself with her expert wonkery, acquired unwillingly over the many years.

The Capitol, matronly and austere, uncaring how the work is done, just wanting it on her desk by COB. She is the Queen Bee, the hub, and she wears her position regally. She sees a younger version of herself in ambitious, beautiful Longworth, but she retains a soft spot for Cannon--soft-spoken, diligent, refreshingly lacking in self-awareness.

And Madison Library tries to hand Cannon a book about anthropomorphism. She's not having any of it.

by Jackie

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Changing of the Guard

The desks are pulled away from the wall and the chipped paint is revealed,
Black scuff marks where someone’s sensible, black work heels rubbed day after day.
And scraps of paper underneath where the hole-puncher resided, socializing memos and statements
That they might join their friends in the 3-ring binders.

Wounded soldiers line the hallways: DO NOT SIT, TO CANNON 317, NEEDS NEW WHEEL
People passing by allow themselves to pity the furniture, but it is not the furniture they pity.
The blue paint is faded in a lonely rectangle behind where hands shook and smiles gleamed.
That they might grace another office soon enough.

These are the fallen soldiers of Congress: the moderate, the progressive, the caucused.
They shuffle quietly out, back to the district that rejected them with 48% of the vote.
They leave behind dusty ledges and circle pins and dreams of a better view, a chairmanship
That they might return, a big fish, to their small pond.

Fresh, unweathered faces and starched shirts, the cubs replace the lions,
With zest for legislating and a hearty respect for the Process, they invade
Offices shining with new paint and Lysoled desks. They polish their unworn shoes
That they might slowly scuff the walls and halls of Congress.

by Jackie