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
JANINE POMMY VEGA
Ice Boom America
I wait for that day in the Almanac
when the sun feels warm to the lumberjacks
when the ground it thaws and the ice it cracks,
That’s the time we’ll take our country back.
The Ice Boom, a necklace of steel cylinders
strung at the eastern end of Lake Erie, holds back
the ice chunks from pummeling down the Niagara River,
damaging docks and the power plant.
A joint effort by Canada and United States, the Ice Boom
is dropped into place after winter solstice,
and pulled out again in early spring.
Whatever ice is left in Lake Erie melts
or flows downriver without mishap inside two weeks:
hands across the border join to benefit all people.
In 1972 I was traveling east through the Andes
in rainy season, a journey they said would take
“anywhere from twelve hours to two weeks.”
One way traffic east on odd days, one way west on even,
a single line of overloaded trucks and buses snaked its way
across precipices to the first washout. The roiling river
had taken over and there was no road, just
a water channel three feet deep. The people got down
from the buses and trucks, they got to work bringing
stones and boulders, building a makeshift bridge
in the current, nobody’s legs dry below the knees.
A hundred men and women hauled stone, piled it
loosely so the water passed through,
until the line leader said he’d try it.
The top-heavy truck with the scarlet pompoms
and God is My Power on the grill
creaked forward. Four hundred sets of eyes
willed and pushed him on.
He faltered, almost bottomed out,
then clawed his way up the far bank, the crowd
roared over him with one voice, our arms raised in salute.
We were a people bridge then, hand over hand crossing rocks
on foot so the empty buses had a better purchase,
all trousers and skirts soaked up to the thighs,
all babies and children were handed and carried
to the far bank, and we made it,
and behind us the others, the brightly painted buses
and ancient semis groaning slowly down the hill,
and that is how it worked, the power of people.
The ice arched up at the mouth of the Niagara
melts or bobbles downstream, and no one is hurt.
Now think of the glacial freeze
over the hearts and minds of America:
The Condoleeza Rice igloo, the black ice verdugos—
Gonzalez and Negroponte—their shadows
rising behind them like torture racks over Honduras
and Abu Graib. Think of us as a people
lulled into a cryogenic sleep by TV, suspended
like Walt Disney in his ice cube under Disney World.
How can we get our country back
from the ice blocks and floes of corporate fists?
How can we break up the freeze on democracy,
bought and stolen through voting booths,
our gaze hypnotized by the media away from the unholy war
in Iraq and the hundred thousand dead, from Hitlerian tactics
of the emperor nobody wants to acknowledge
as their elected president? How can we unfreeze
the freedoms we’re supposed to have?
Wake up America! The ice boom has been removed
like cataracts from a sightless nation,
the water is running free.
We can unthaw the airwaves, we can hammer away
at the ice gates of Valhalla, we can wrestle
the frozen mammoth of greed to the ground,
we can point to the weapons of unspent uranium
maiming generations of Iraqis and our own soldiers alike.
We can raise our voice like the folks at the river:
We are one, we are a river, and we want our country back.
Willow, New York, March 2005
[Originally published in NHS 2005, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs05/janine_pommy_vega.html.]