O President, My President

First written in January of 2003 for Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War website, for which I was also a volunteer editor. See also  “Beating about the Bush” and “Iraqi Boys.”

 

        1

 

O President! my President! our fearful trip is unbegun;

The ship need not weather desert storms again, that prize need not be won;

The port is here, the bells I hear, the poets now exulting,

While follow eyes the trembling keel, the vessel thin and craving;

    But O heart! heart! heart!

        O the bleeding drops of red,

            Where on the deck my President lies

                Compassion cold and dead.

 

        2

 

O President! my President! rise up and hear our bells;

Rise up—for you peace flags are flung—for you our bugle trills;

For you sobriquets and anxious pleas—for you the shores a-crowding;

For you we call, the swaying mass, our fretful faces turning;

    Here President! dear father!

        This arm beneath your head;

            It is some dream that on the deck

                Your compassion’s cold and dead.

 

        3

 

My President does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship of state is anchored safe, its voyage yet undone;

The fearful trip, the hollow ship, its battles over-won;

    Plead, O shores, and ring, O bells!

        But I, with mournful tread,

            Walk the deck my President lies,

                Compassion cold and dead.