Wednesday, April 22, 2009


If you should give a man a match,
you warm him for perhaps a day;
but give that man a stake
and give him that same match,
he’ll warm us all for the rest of his life.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Have A Nice Day, Poldy


Subject 3348 Day 1

Subject escorted to Interrogation Unit
by standard Intake Unit escort squad,
locomoting under own power.
Full shackle set. Appears healthy,
approximately thirty years old.
States he’s been in custody one day,
doesn’t know why he’s been arrested.
Manner slightly apprehensive, wary.
Relaxes a bit with leg shackles removed.
Seated posture is erect, alert, tense.
Subject states he is innocent of any crime.
English is fairly good. Middle class?
States he does not know Informant 12,
or why anyone would report his name
to authorities. Claims to be a student.
Denies any connection to insurgency.
Tone superior and dismissive of interrogator.
Claims no knowledge of explosives
or military ordnance. States professors
will vouch for his status at university.
Subject makes and sustains eye contact.
Application, at force 2, from rear,
of the Command Directory unseats subject,
elicits a flow of speech in unknown language.
Reseated, subject is silent, self-contained.
Manner suggests subject is trained to resist
interrogation. Subject remains silent
when asked what he thinks of the occupation
by Provisional Authority Forces. Asked
again, subject remains silent, smiles.
Directory applied, force 3.
Subject has no visible marks,
but right index finger bent to unusual
angle, probably owing to his fall.
Finger straightened by interrogator,
seems normal. Subject still denies
any connection with insurgency.
Asked why he was at his place of arrest,
subject states he was walking home from school
because his family car had been destroyed
by Provisional Authority troops
and the bus he normally took wasn’t running.
Asked where his books were, if any,
subject states his briefcase was taken away
from him at the scene of his arrest.
Arrest report makes no mention
of any confiscated packages.
Subject tenses when interrogator
picks up Command Directory,
but provides no additional commentary.
Preliminary conclusions: subject appears
trained to resist interrogation, provides
minimal answers, probably deceptive.
Involvement with insurgency seems probable.
Recommend return to Intake Unit
for standard disorientation regimen.
Return to Interrogation Unit tomorrow.

Subject 3348 Day 2

Subject escorted to Interrogation Unit,
standard escort. Full shackle set.
Subject appears exhausted, sleep-deprived,
but otherwise healthy, without injuries.
Subject informed that he will only be made
more comfortable if we can rely
on his truthful answers and full cooperation.
Subject states he’s ready to cooperate.
Asked what he was doing at the scene of his arrest
subject repeats he was walking home from school.
Phrasing is exactly the same as yesterday,
indicating a planned, deceptive response.
Informed that no records for him exist
at the university, subject states
there must be some mistake, that he has been
a postgraduate fellow in Sunni poetry
for more than two years. Subject adds
that he has no interest in and has never
participated in local politics
or for that matter ethnic politics.
Asked why no records exist,
subject repeats there must be some mistake.
Subject denies involvement with insurgency
without being asked. Says he is innocent.
Asked what he is innocent of, subject
replies “Whatever you think I did.”
Asked if he is playing games with us,
subject states he never plays games,
that he is quite serious, but thinks he’s going mad,
that the whole world must be going mad.
Subject refuses to make eye contact.
Application of Command Directory,
force 3. Subject lies on floor,
feigning unconsciousness. Asked if he was trying
to steal a nap subject finally states
he has no idea what happened at all.
Told to reseat himself, subject complies,
but slowly. Subject stares down at his hands.
Asked if he frequently has nosebleeds,
subject at last replies in the negative.
Subject thanks interrogator when
interrogator wipes subject’s face.
Subject denies being smart when asked.
Asked again why he was at the scene
of his arrest, subject sticks to his story,
again using identical words and phrasing.
Asked if he is familiar with the term
“Baghdad Jackknife,” subject
denies knowledge, but displays clear
signs of apprehension, fear, dread.
Informed that he would be finding out about
the technique unless he tells the truth,
subject states that he is telling the truth,
that he doesn’t know what any of this is about,
that he only wants to continue with his studies.
Command Directory. Force 3 plus.
Subject makes no attempt to get up.
Advised to be seated, subject does not reply.
Placed in his seat, subject immediately
allows himself to slide back to the floor.
Warned that he won’t be made comfortable
unless we have his full cooperation,
subject still makes no reply. Placed
back in his chair, subject says nothing,
stares fixedly at the far wall,
a known method of resisting interrogation.
Recommend return to Intake
to complete course of preconditioning.

Subject 3348 Day 3

Subject 3348
failed to appear at Interrogation Unit.
Intake Unit reports subject expired
time uncertain previous night.
Intake Unit monitors discovered
subject unresponsive on midnight rounds.
Unspecified pre-existing
condition. This concludes investigation
of Subject 3348.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


They’ll let you down, people will,
even those who never should,
the ones you trust the most, until
they measure out the wormwood.

They’ll break your heart, break the shards,
grind the detritus to dust;
they’ll leave you nothing but your scars,
but you’ll go on, because you must.

Inch by bitter inch, you’ll heal.
Dawn will break; you’ll smile a smile
tempered by your long ordeal.
This may, however, take awhile.

Then they’ll have another go,
which won’t be easier, of course,
nor will it help you much to know
that each succeeding wound is worse.

But put away your violin.
Just remember all this pain
when it’s you bares the bodkin,
as you will. It’s preordained:

family, loves, friendships die,
without exception, each and all;
our quintessential human ties
are ticked out by time’s pawl,

as if betrayal, conflict, change,
neglect, and error wouldn’t doom
the frail connections we arrange
to help us gallop to the tomb.

No, you can’t slow the pace;
nor is there anything to do
except to stare it in the face,
live as though it weren’t true.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Thinking Life

For Tom it all began, as trouble may,
at school, or on the corner near school.
Although he’d never been one to disobey,
one morning Tom defiled the rule:

he let a thought crackle through his head.
It ravished him. Out of that small spark
a small sunrise flared and spread
in one mad moment from the dark,

sent a blue flood of kilowatts
through his every synapse, a holy light
his naïve neurons never quite forgot.
He shambled off to class, confused, contrite,

frightened by its elemental power,
vowed he’d never yield to sin again.
Right. That resolve cost him an hour
before he was back at it, sizzling his brain

without the slightest sense of doing wrong,
glad to tempt the devil in his lair.
But, all considered, Tommy got along
surprisingly well; no one seemed to care

about his secret vice, no one saw
sign or symptom; no one even looked.
Glassy eyes and all, slack jawed,
he fit in. But Tom knew he was hooked.

Strung out. Forever transformed,
the innocent boy he’d been forever gone,
washed away, a matchstick in a storm.
At what point he’d crossed the Rubicon

he didn’t know, just that he’d left behind
the straight life for haunted libraries,
smuggling musty books home to find
clues to metastasizing mysteries.

He tried to stop. A hundred times he tried.
He married, found himself a job, bought
a new television, double-wide,
but Tom remained a prisoner of thought.

And one day his boss called him in,
wearing the look that bosses sometimes wear.
“I like you, Tom. Don’t know where to begin.
You may think it’s none of our affair,

“but let me assure you it certainly is. We know.
You’ve been thinking, Tom. On our time,
playing holy hell with the status-quo.
You’ll have to do it on your own dime.”

Shocked, Tom did. How could he not?
Thinking on the job was serious,
and they had him dead to rights; he’d been caught
with a smoking premise, a red hypothesis.

What to do? First, you tell your wife,
which promised to be no fun at all,
then you try to straighten out your life,
maybe find a therapist to call.

That evening, in television glow,
he broached the subject. “Honey, I’ve been thinking—”
She flinched. “Did you really think I didn’t know?
Every night you sit there with your stinking

thoughts and you think you have to tell me? Now?”
She threw her hands up to hide her tears.
“Did you ever stop to think about your vows?”
He stood. “For the love of Christ. I’m out of here.”

Tom slammed the door, jumped in the car,
gunned it toward the nearest library,
thinking and driving, yes, but it wasn’t far.
He’d done it a hundred times successfully.

But this time was apparently the charm.
He was sitting at a light, lost,
of course, in thought, doing no one harm,
waiting for pedestrians to cross,

when someone rapped the glass at his ear.
A woman. Tom ran the window down.
“It’s not going to get any greener, Dear,
no matter how often it goes around.”

She smiled in sadness more than fun.
“Having a little thinky-poo, then,
are we? Someone needs a meeting, Son.
I’m on my way to one. You’ll fit right in.”

Why he followed her he never knew.
Who can fathom miracles like these?
Tom trailed that thoughtful woman to
a room full of thought’s refugees.

“My name is, um, Tom. I think.”
“Hi, Tom,” some scattered voices said.
“It started out as just a little kink,
but now I can’t control my own head.”

“Tell it Tom, just let it all go blank.”
He saw some smiles, but heard no laughter.
It took a year, but Tom became a plank,
and they all lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Educated Frogs

Two frogs were swimming in a pot.
One asked “Is it only me,
or is this water getting hot?”

“Same as ever, actually,”
said the second, a devout,
“Don’t you trust the powers that be?”

“I must confess a certain doubt,”
said the first, who’d read some law,
“Something’s fishy hereabouts.”

Teacher came. Neither saw.
“Most surprising, is it not?
So what conclusions can we draw?”