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.”


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.


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.


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.