Your poems are not bombs.


Why are your poems not bombs?


In your poems men get nowhere in cars, speak like graduates.



Do not send your poems to the universities. Spray them on the walls. See if they last.

Mail them on the backs of postcards, get them into the drugs, the bottoms of bottles.







I know you know where your t-shirt is made, wink at where those flags come from.

You know how the bananas ripen.

You know there are hills and fields

you cannot wander and pick yellow flowers.

You saw a girl cradling a landmine, tender

as a cat, she carried home a gift mouse.






You wrote a dozen poems about prime numbers. Poems about the shape of tea cups.

Poems, poems, poems

about dirty laundry

Poems, poems, poems

a love song to your old car,

a pining to the empty sea.

Poems, poems, poems

for the square root, the dividend.


You spent weeks turning those screws.

At least you could have worked

with the heat off, the lights off.


At least you could have fasted

so that your wasted time

would be yours alone.



Here is a number from Newsweek: 123 men have been exonerated

from the death penalty since 1973.

Here is a number from Time Magazine: 47,440 civilian deaths in Iraq. Minimum.

Is that a prime enough number?


General Tommy Franks spit,

‘We don’t do body counts.’

Why is every poet not counting, Ryan?

There are 47,440 poems to be written.








Why are your poems not read on the news? Can your poems not even try

to levitate the pentagon? Can your poems not even try to flower the rifles?


Are you really ashamed

of preaching to the choir?

Is it so much better to hum at the tower?


The war is everywhere, it rains

all the time and they are selling us water.








You want to read a book about Sacco and Vanzetti.

Open your window, they are alive and out

scratching for clemency.


You do not have a pen pal on death row.

Your poems do not plea, take the stand.









Would you like to be back in Syracuse with the dead worms, dreaming to get out?

Is it so easy in your warm and wool sweater? Can you no longer see inside the grey rain boxes,


didn’t your skin shiver

for the dirty lake,

the mess GE made,

the girls of Johnson City

with acute Lymphoma,

the companies gone,

like the men

left the mines.



Ryan, Ryan, Ryan

Why do you sit alone in your room humping Tennyson?

Why are you not on the streets with cocktails and rags at your feet, launching poems on catapults?

Why are you so content to scratch paper boats,

sail them down the gutter?


Ryan, Ryan, Ryan

You have spent mornings reading the boring bits of newspapers

so you may one day write the poem that will go in the book no one reads.

The poem that will say, People, People wake up

put down your carrier bags of rain and commence

your fucking in the streets. Make us your beautiful mulatto babies.

People, People

Wake up, wake up

the day is now.


First published in published inĀ Starry Rhymes: 85 Years of Allen Ginsberg, 2011.