Music for a funeral: Remembering 41

O yeah yeah I remember George Herbert Walker Bush


I remember his creepy disjointed white man grin

And the way he ran the CIA

And became de facto president

After Reagan was shot

And I remember

The way

Some say

He became de facto president before Reagan was shot


So read my fucking lips:


I remember his invasion of Panama

Operation Just Because We Can:

A very Merry Christmas

To the residents of El Chorrillo, the neighbourhood

Where “our bastard” Noriega grew up;

Hundreds firebombed or shot down by

Helicopters with stolen names from a stolen land stealing more;

O what wondrous music: the raging forgettable fire

Timbers groaned. Sheet metal popped. Lungs did too.

Fire and fury fell all around those other bastards,

Whose human voices did their best to wake us


And yes, I remember

Reading Ramsey Clark

And finding Z Magazine

And Lies of Our Times

Like a lifeline to a language that included the words, “Why, yes

The world is upside down. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

And I remember finding South End Press and Black Rose Books

Chomsky, Herman, Diamond, Galeano and hooks

And seeing, why yes, the world was upside down

And me, asking myself, what was I going to do about it?


And I remember, of course I remember

The American ambassador

Doesn’t everyone?

April Glaspie telling Iraqis

The United States had “no opinion” of its border disputes with Kuwait

In a meeting in July 1990.


And I remember the day they commenced primary ignition

On mostly a civilian population,

I was standing in my kitchen

Something about noodles, and wine, and radio tuned to CBC

When – that sound, that alarming music, the sound that something, somewhere, something more than news was breaking

When – we interrupt this poem to tell you

The Allies have begun bombing Baghdad

And Desert Shield has turned to Desert Storm.


The Allies.

The Allies!


I remember what you said next

That it was all about, after all, the rule of law

Yeah yeah the white man at his podium

Ruling of law

Daring to throw off his chains

Free at last, no longer would he have to fight

With one hand tied behind his back.

O what wondrous music, to fight with both hands

For the first time since Viet Nam, booyah!


Both hands.

Mark and I drank whisky that night. I remember whisky.

I remember my mother saying she was worried

About the pilots flying those planes

And my father: “Are you alright? You sound upset”

And other things people say in smartly guided words

When the world is upside down and looks alright to them.


And I remember

The day after, standing in King’s College Circle

Clutching a coffee for dear life, feeling the upside down with friends.

The Brute Force Committee, made up of keener engineers,

Set off a faux canon to celebrate the bombing

O what wondrous music

And I jolted out of my skin

I remember the coffee jolting too

Right out of its cup

Up into the air, in an arc, in a parabola of shock

I soon stumbled into a chapel at Knox to pray

‘cos there’s a first time for everything

And it seemed like a good idea at the time


I remember protests at King and Bay

Making the links from Oka to the Gulf

Blocking traffic, blocking the machine in small vital ways

I remember a black man jumping up on a newspaper box

And the cameras rushing in

Him shooing them out of his face

Speaking to us, to us:


This is a racist war: it blew my little white mind.


And I remember we blockaded

External Affairs in Ottawa

Hundreds of new friends in Alliance for Nonviolent Action

With our bodies we blocked the ins and outs,

Cops dragged some of us off by our hair

But there weren’t mass arrests.; it was a different time

Kettles were for tea, the militarism hadn’t yet evolved;

And we all made it safely home.


And I remember that summer after the Storm,

As little white minds resumed their busyness

I sat reading about the aftermath; seeing the photos from the Highway of Death

The indignity of charred bodies on the side of the road

Slumped at steering wheels, falling out of hatchbacks:

A proper turkey shoot, well done, sir.


O what wondrous music you played, sir,

Here, there, anywhere

The raging forgettable fire

The music of modern rocketry

To chasten and to terrify

In your old world order of things.


That is the sound underneath your funeral today: the sound

Of oxygen leaving,

The sound of you trying

And failing

To burn truth, well pardon me

For speaking kill of the dead.

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