H e a r t   S o n s   &   H e a r t   D a u g h t e r s   of   A l l e n   G i n s b e r g

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 4 :   A r c h i v e s   E d i t i o n






Even a Poet Laureate Doesn’t Deserve to Get Beaten by the Police


As someone who doesn’t care much

about government awards or titles

given to artists, I still say a 70-year-old

former Poet Laureate of the United States

should have some extra layer of protection

from getting beaten with billy clubs

by a Berkeley police-riot squad.

I once read with Robert Hass

at a conference at Rutgers University

on Poetry & the Public Sphere,

and thought he had some terrific

environmentalist & other poems. It was inspiring

to read in Sunday’s NY Times that he

and several poet colleagues had

bravely put their bodies on the line.

How did so many police officers

around the country learn in unison

to become so unlawful

so soon after the Occupy movement

was born? And who is teaching these rogue cops

how to bruise and break poets’ ribs, how to

block and arrest journalists in their running

shoes, how to pepper-spray sitting students,

and how to destroy thousands of books

from the Occupy Wall Street free library?

How is it that government officials

and rows of men and women

wearing uniforms of ceremonial blue

can be so oblivious to the importance

of such resonating social symbols?

And why hasn’t our poetry-loving President

weighed in? We shouldn’t have to risk

our physical safety to speak our minds!

Eventually the police violence will end

and the nation’s eyes will be forced

to look squarely at the issues––of economic

justice and democracy, continuing war and

racism, universal access to education

and health care, deteriorating foundations

of housing and jobs, how to keep the planet

livable for all, politicians and elections bought

and paid--being raised by the growing Occupy

protests. Until then, I suggest poets exercising

our freedom of expression in public

consider wearing some protective padding

over our vulnerable semi-colons.



[Originally published in NHS 2012, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs12/.]