by Benjamin Nardolilli
In Praise of Political Disunity
The family of flags waving
Out before the United Nations,
Teasing the tower and shell
With cotton and rayon fingers,
Do their best to remind the world
That it may be smaller, but still
It hangs like a rose window,
A round portrait of many borders.
Great empires make great mistakes,
The decision of a Chinese emperor
Doomed a quarter of the world’s people,
Yet the artists of Tuscany
Could always pack up and move to Venice
In a few days time, if their patrons
Tried to tighten their purse strings.
Oriental explorers had their junks rot
Once the ports were closed, they went inland
Or turned to fishing, many turned to piracy
In hopes of sailing the wide open sea,
Columbus, bowed down and out of Europe’s courts
Before finding a home before the Iberian thrones,
A dozen Latin speaking hosts,
Each one at war with the other,
Traded men like him in constant imitation,
Italians exploring Canada,
Danes leaving Siberia, and
Spaniards in service to the Portuguese,
Trying to find the Spice Islands.
What race could take place, to reach the moon,
If only one team was entered, if all would win
By arriving at the destination?
The metal ball slung around the orbit of the earth,
First alone, then with a canine, then finally
With a man inside, set the starting line
And sculpted the finish with flourish,
A distant legacy of grandiose proportions.
Two pillars, two rockets, two views of the world
When floating around in space, with singularity
Things would have wound down, the initial surprise
And excitement, unable to be sustained for its own sake,
No colorful rivalry keeping the energy going, the demand
For new frontiers, new battlefields unheard of and unmet.
Somewhere to flee, that’s most important,
As long as there’s a different place,
Either a dictator’s paradise or a democratic plantation,
The thinker and the feeler can act,
Ready to move and run should the mob or police come,
When the world’s an endless island, political Pangaea,
Nothing can be opposed, there is no necessity for change,
No source for inspiration, a most perfect place
Where no alternative is known.
Selma to the Sea
Looking for salt, we know
Where to find it, enough
For everyone to live off,
And we have tasted plenty too,
In the blood lost
And labor spent,
Tears shed over bodies
Swinging in the trees,
We both say, no more.
They cannot stop a people,
For people are the soft gears,
That armies and states ride on,
A person, yes, they can
Separate one, a bud
Seized from a branch
And cut it to pieces,
But the whole tree is too much for them,
Especially when they need us
To climb up and pick the fruit.
While you look for the water,
We are covered in it,
Cyclones of men and dogs
Keep us to the walls,
We admire the brickwork
With our lips and nails,
And we have spun our own cloth,
Turned our wardrobes from vanity,
To hospitality, remembering
What it was that kept you in the field,
Your fingers bloody from the bulbs
That we were the first to pick.
You are not alone,
Sutras and psalms,
We’ll sing together at liberation,
You were not alone at the shore,
We were watching you
And felt our own chains lighten,
You were not alone in your burning bushes,
Reclaim your crosses from their fires,
Like we seized our twisted ones
From the gas chambers,
And we will both spread ashes,
And mourn all those kept from seeing
The promised land.
And the sacred river running free.
The Noisy Dictators
You know them,
The noisy dictators,
Who stick your ears
In everything, who want
You to be an extra
In the soundtrack playing
Alongside their lives.
They rule through
Plucking the air
And holding it hostage
In a gulag halo around you
While you sit
And try to let the passing glare
Of the commuting world
From their sphere of influence.
You might find amongst them,
Some enlightened despots,
Who will blast Bach and Brahms
But most of the time
It’s an unadorned autocrat
Unable to give himself
A fruit salad of medals,
Playing next to you,
Trying to get your ears
To fall like petals to the floor,
With a song that cannot escape gravity.
Call for a coup:
For a set of headphones
To be replaced by a stereo,
A change of tempo
Is nice and necessary,
But pray for a revolution,
Armies marching brightly,
But in silence, the masses
Rising up in the name of quiet
To pull the plug
And bring the dictators
To a place they must pass
Over in silence.
Benjamin Nardolilli is a twenty one year old writer currently attending New York University, where he studies creative writing, history, and philosophy. His work has appeared previously on the website Flashes of Speculation and he has had poetry published in Nurit Magazine, Perigee Magazine, Canopic Jar, and Lachryma: Modern Songs of Lament. In addition he also maintains a blog at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com.