An Alien Power in Contemporary America…

“It is not me,” you say. “It’s not me who causes all the trouble in the village square.” You’re right of course. Those aren’t your nazis. Hell you don’t even know a nazi.

“I know it’s not me,” you say.“

Yes you have white privilege, or you’ve succeeded at Capitalist Parcheesi despite your origin and you take a good vacation once a year. You’ve a basement crammed full of excess stuff. You fully understand the time you’ve spent acquiring non-essential commodities is time you could have used doing something else.

“Someone else will take care of the nazis,” you think. “Someone else will clean up the environment, guarantee equal opportunity for those disabled children down the street.”

Nazis grow when you’re not awake.

It’s not your fault. You gave to the March of Dimes.

I believe nazis appear when our garages are filled with too much crap.

Marx had it right:  “Under private property … Each tries to establish over the other an alien power, so as thereby to find satisfaction of his own selfish need. The increase in the quantity of objects is therefore accompanied by an extension of the realm of the alien powers to which man is subjected, and every new product represents a new potentiality of mutual swindling and mutual plundering.”

Nazis grow when people are being swindled.

“It’s not me,” you say. You’re right of  course.

Forgive me. I know I’m being supercilious.

I have a basement filled with junk.

Elegy for Pentti Saarikoski

Like many poets I wake thinking of delicate things, some apparent, others abstract. I think of Wallace Stevens “planet on a table”—the world we must make each day, and then I smell the  sweet ripening apples outside my bedroom window. I rise, feed my dogs, brew coffee, check the news hoping for breakthroughs in international understanding, put on my rough shoes and walk into the still morning. I’ll make something of this. Put on my little “peace hat” and pepper the aborning hour with words—names—Isaac Bashevis Singer, entelechy, sea cucumber, yellow mittens, mother-world. No one is about in my neighborhood. No one’s awake. The houses are all buttoned, windows dark. My feet love the wet road. I think I need to pardon my youth. I hear the Phoebe bird. The age I live in has a dark taste. I’m seldom prone to this but I do sometimes wish I was a bird.


A Sentence I Wrote in My Head While Walking This Morning

Sometimes if a man or woman, queer, trans, straight, tall or short, sometimes, sometimes, white or black, Asian, Latina, Latino, Indigenous—oh sometimes if “they” feel their stolid hearts about to break, sometimes, they will imagine a better future, where man is no longer wolf to man as they used to say when there was a vigorous labor movement, when solidarity was practiced and little boats rose on the tide—oh sometimes, when the heart is bruised, they must still believe in a future and don’t be fooled, it doesn’t involve racist monuments, but instead there’s Sojourner Truth in bronze on the village square, Frederick Douglas holding a book high up on a pedestal in a city park, Myles Horton beside him on the agora—sometimes they dream of public reverence for peace makers and educators, organizers for justice, a statue of James Baldwin and another of Pete Seeger, not murderers, fighters for slavery, ugly men who’d just as soon burn down the nation as see a man, woman, or child freed from bondage, sometimes, yes, the people have a better vision than a busted heart.


I fed my heart but it fell from the nest…


I did the proper thing, read poems

While its wings were growing—

Just another shattered cup now


When young

Living in cheap apartment

I heard the eyelids next door


You get used to it

Able bodied people

Thinking you’re a creep


I had a dream

About Jack Kerouac

Somewhere somewhere


Back then, 1959, he couldn’t distinguish between dreams and daylight.

Even in sleep there were shadows or the footprints of shadows,

Twin brother in heaven?


The gardener cherishes a black flower–

Sad napkin:

A Lepidopterist’s poem


I am in love with blindness,

Do you understand?

Even old horses delight in walking.

Life when you taste it…

Life when you taste it,

It’s handsome and fatal,

A tall, dark stranger at every corner table,

Something whispered, a woman with a flower

On her shoulder, her nipples like living ice.

Life, certainly a romantic word,

When you taste it, Robin Hood, oak tree,

Dark-faced like a big river,

Laser lights before dying.

Life, a white napkin. But then dark, dangerous.

The taste of it.

A granite body with blood vessels,

Black meat and herbs.

Life as you live it. Carefully, leveling.

Taste life. It’s acorn water…


–Jarkko Laine

translated from the Finnish by SK