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Political & Social Issues

What do you need to say about "Grass" by Carl Sandburg? Not only is it a fine anti-war poem, but it also works well as a poem about memory. Memory that covers over the past and allows us to move into the future; memory that covers over the past and allows us to forget it, thereby allowing us to make the same mistakes over again.

I don't know that this poem is taught much anymore - Sandburg seems to be relegated to anthologies with the 6 lines of "Fog", but I remember it being used quite a bit during the Vietnam War years.

Personally, I am not much for political poetry, but when done in such a way as this poem, I find it quite powerful.

Let's give a try to a poem that addresses a political or social issue. Try not to just stand on a soapbox and shout, but follow Sandburg's lead.


Earth clung to her hair as if it belonged there.
Ancient pride weeped from her pores,
a perfume of a long-ago whipped history.
Wearing secrets of the grave on her dress,
she rose up like a tree and stood there, tall,
pining at the edge of her prison,
free, yet not free,
her fingernails her turnkey.



beyond rusted gate
they lie in wait
in silent abode
stones carved with sweat
lest we forget
there row after row
to mark in vain the memory
that grows fainter by the year
when like the mason,s chisel
we,ll shed not a tear
so sleep you must eternal, lads
there in your earthen womb
to hear no more the cannons roar
beneath this earthly moon
your silence cries aloud
fate leaves no escape
for someday i too
shall lie
beyond rusted gate

Ray Cutshaw


i am alone
this day

the leaves
swirl in
a madness of
their own

dead branches
crack off trees
without warning
cremate the dead
with soulful fires

this september morning
i shake
at the sound
the wicked make
as shards of glass
plummet to concrete

long for you
in this terror
reach out for

a light to guide
and warm
my icy flesh

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello

Blood that drips drips carelessly.
It soaks the mud. It soils the crown.
It spills upon the sterile gown.
It stains the hand that chokes the free
and smears the flags of Liberty.

When friend and foe are splattered down
at last, it blends upon the ground
and rests in pools, in harmony.

Pray for soldiers in the right.
Bless their mission with a song;
and wish them luck in killing well.
Curse the lad whom they must fight
- the willing lad whose Cause is wrong -
and march them both down into Hell.

Catherine M. LeGault


Without pride or possessions
I am wordless, pained
by life’s cruel turns,
not good enough
for you to look at
as you maneuver around me
on your way to productivity,
I look ahead from rock bottom
while you look down on me
in judgment, you don’t know
I once knew the right words
but not the right people,
those ruthless in their dismissal of me,
my words offered to them
on fancy paper I can no longer afford,
or the rejection that came with the mail.

I steal a pencil when no one’s looking
but my words don’t show up
well on discarded newspaper,
one more futile dream headed
for the dumpster,
you don’t know they can
no longer find me,
I have no forwarding address,
they can’t take my words from me.

Susan Stewart


The wind whispers in the trees.
The spring mud is thick on the road
As I look up the mountain to the crest of the hill
Where my house will be built.
A developer bought this beautiful landscape
to build beautiful homes,
While the Nature Society collects dollars
From you and me and the extraordinarily rich
To buy beautiful land to prevent it
From being developed.
To give up pride of place for the common good is only easy theoretically.

Ellen Kaplan


Little Johnnie Omaha
(son of Johnnie Omaha,
whose practiced politic pap
helped put our men on moon)
wore union buttons on his cap
and built his father's tomb.

Ron Lavalette


A happy child cries, “Sing me a song.”

A single drop of blood struck the clean white Audi
The oncoming driver saw the eagle high above,
a young adder in the talon grip suspended there
writhed to deliver a desperation death blow strike.
A single feather floating on the breeze seized
the spotlight for an irresolute moment and life changed forever.

A frightened child cries, “Hold me Daddy.”

Hunger unsatiated by just one more quarry
turned design perfection sublime into grief personified.
A dream shattered by the loosening of a single breath
made diabolical by a survival impulse turned ghastly.
Two innocents caught up in sharing a space in time
could not avert the abhorrent calamity set into motion

An innocent child cries, “Hold me Mommy.”

Young soldiers know no fear when they gaze into the heavens.
The bright white blur is all they remember of speed
and exhilaration found only in limitless power released
to devour the everchanging landscape paved smooth.
Rabbits scurry and lambs barely notice the roar and scream
of sirens racing to halt the near certain fatality.

A desperate child cries, “Feed me Grammy.”

That young warrior deprived of a heroic return
found immortality in the prize sought for profit,
power and the right to rule as God intended.
Oh we can forget the others in the gray immigrant bus,
They were saved from the endless grime of farm work
and sweating from noonday sun in an adopted homeland.

Grown men are crying to the children, “Save us, save us.”

Doesn’t everyone deserve a clean white Audi,
leather seats and nature parks where life is undisturbed?
Video cameras and flash stop reality for an eternity—
natural beauty preserved for a future yet unrealized.
Eagles unfettered and free to feast on raw bait meat,
and every child studies the wonder of what we almost had.

Glen Shorts


Warm, windy daylight in mid November
Urged the harvesters down the rows of corn.
Moving like ants who fear winter
The giants that fill pockets with food security
Make a joke of what was once honest labor.

A spectacle to behold by SUVs cruising by
Complicit in their praise of technology,
Cheap oil and comfort worth fighting for
Not me, I pay my taxes and boast a flag
So smart bombs can protect us, invisibly.

A new Rome with roads paved for conquest
Embraced by a work ethics all hold dear.
Frail human instincts raised to cultural myth
Propel the privileged illusions of a simple man
Now globally arrayed like Leonid meteoric showers.

The urgent radio message goes quiet and the sun
Slips below the horizon, no sound, no music
Without warning, two large innocent eyes burst the
And the proud antlered stag meets his awful fate,
A vulgar death in the cold of December.

Alan R. Bender


We call, 'em the old farts,
Tired, with belt and suspenders
And laceless black shoes
Looking like they'd just come from jail
Where they went for what they did.
Contrary to what you think
I look at the old men
Called matter a fact
Stock figures, common place
Or Banal.
The word, banal derives from ban
From men in a band
Who were obliged to serve their lord
As vassal or serf or pikeman.

They are not embarrassed.
They do not turn away from questions
But they do say they were thinking
Of many other things
From that time.

As Dylan sings,
"you knew me when."
Was it ashes or dirty water
Or human forced meat
That they used to draw on blank white sheets.
They didn't want trouble
But trouble found them out.
You can cut memory out of love
And from love grows memory.

Now their minds race
But their hands
Have learned with age, slow, small steps.
From the newspaper morgue
I enter a room of
"better things for better living
Through chemistry."
Who said you can't chew Gun powder?

Edward N. Halperin





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