Judith Offer

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

THE GRAND LAKE THEATRE MARQUEE

          To Alan Michaan

 

Not flashing lanterns in Old North steeple,

One stealthy, terrifying night,

The British are coming, one if by land,

But red plastic letters in broad daylight,

In full view of 580, God, and Republicans:

 

OHIO VOTING MACHINES FIXED.

SAVE DEMOCRACY FOR OUR CHILDREN.

 

Not an historic district, cobbled streets,

But next to greasy KFC, how prosaic,

Across from the Saturday Farmer’s Market,

Organic cucumbers, eight-seed bread

Six kinds of chutney, homemade:

 

BUSH LIED ABOUT WMD.

STOP THIS IMMORAL WAR.

 

Republicans send Letters to the Editor:

I’ll never spend another dime in his theatre!

On the front page of the same paper,

Iraq veterans come back without brains,

Cutbacks are made in their benefits.

 

US CEOs MAKE 100 TIMES WORKERS.

CONGRESS VOTES MORE BILLIONS FOR WAR.

 

Not a sweating, galloping stallion,

Miles on miles through moonlight.

But red plastic letters on a white marquee,

One-by-one, at the top of a creaky ladder,

Day after week after month.

 

AFGANISTAN, IRAQ, AND NOW IRAN?

IMPEACH BUSH AND CHENEY.

 

Ride, Alan, ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Lake Theatre Marquee

 

 

 

AT THE FOOT OF MOUNT SINAI

 

Not temple; not church; not mosque

          but wall.

Not roof

          but sky

          sun stars moons clouds rain.

Not atrium; inner sanctum; altar; aisle

          but walled circle

          all sides equal

          all beginnings endings

          all welcome.

Not doors; gates; windows

          but spaces left to enter

          one north one east one west one south.

Not cedar; sandstone; marble; stressed concrete

          but adobe alone and no higher.

Not designed chosen won architected paid approved

          but put

          one each brick from every earth

          by sweat consecrated

          by one sun stroked.

Not statues symbols carvings etchings mosaics

          but earth by Who-Gives-Earth

          bricks by even-who-has-nothing-other-to-give.

Not services sacrifices rituals rites

          but prayers by woman and man

          kneeling standing lying sitting

          whispering singing chanting shouting:

Not raids bombings hostages heroes territories victories

          but peace.

 

 

 

BOUNDARIES

 

If you step across this line I’ll

Piss on your grass ground grandmother.

This is my yard farm country

I inherited it from

God and everybody;

It says so here in my

Paper will Book

And my face manhood reputation depends upon

This wind-blown border

In the hills between the mountains

Under ocean sand where the line moves

Grows follows the river’s edge

Clearly along the map.

Anybody can see

It’s mine ours;

We’ll do anything if you touch it;

We’ll fight to the last rotting

Child to the last dotted line,

Across the plain desert field territory

Which we obviously deserve

Because we’re stronger smarter chosen

And besides

I paid a lot of money

To be buried with my grandfathers.

 

 

 

TUNNELING AND UNTUNNELING

 

My car moves smoothly toward the tunnel,

Through hills and unhills. Pastel houses,

Like so many Easter eggs, hide and unhide

In the rising green.  My neck

Kvetches. I stretch, shift,

Flip the switch on the radio,

Moving the selector from noise to news.

 

Caught in mid-sentence, the deft reporter

Snatches me up, drops me inside the Holocaust

Museum, across the country, along the Mall.

Amid piles of purified Jewish shoes,

Lists of the long-ago unwanted wanted,

And photos of babies cleansed and uncleansed,

A speaker says, How could we let this happen?

 

My car plunges willingly into the tunnel,

And the Holocaust mumbles and fades.  In the

Rumbling half-light, my daughter appears,

Unpacking and packing her backpack,

Grumbling at a blackening banana smearing

The back of her math book.  No bombs fall

As she grabs her jacket and fades.

 

Out of the tunnel, into the bright light

Of a schoolyard in Bosnia, the radio

Is counting the ethnically bombed and unbombed.

One boy, blood running inside and outside

His cheeks, begs against the darkness,

Don’t cry, Mama.  Please don’t cry.  An announcer

Says I helped make his program possible.

 

I punch his button as the tunnel disappears

In a curve of highway in my rearview mirror.

A flute slides out of the left speaker

And the San Francisco Bay fills

The windshield like a scene on a screen.

Above, cumulus accumulate in stories of stories,

Plots wound and unwound in breezy gestures.

 

My car turns and unturns the city streets,

Pulls up to a curb.  Children gaggle and ungaggle

At the schoolgate, waiting to be wanted.

My Kate yanks the hefty car door,

Heaves herself and her load inside,

Announces, banana got all over

My backpack, and turns the radio off.

 

 

 

FOUND IN THE SUNDAY PAPER

March 9, 2003

 

Bush Girds for War in Solitude, But Not in Doubt

 

          Revolution in Warfare:

          It’s All in the Network

 

                    Mothers Wait, Aching

                    For Word From Sons

 

A Biblical struggle of Good versus Evil

 

          The fog of war can be dispelled

          by enough sensors, networks, and smart weapons

 

                    It takes 14 to 17 days

                    for a letter to come from Kuwait.

 

The first thing he reads every day is the threat assessment.

 

          Our military budget is almost equal

          to that of the rest of the world combined.

 

                    the damage war does

                    to mothers’ souls

 

presenting himself in an hour-long news conference…impervious to doubt

 

          using behavior-modifying drugs

          to create Terminator-like soldiers.

 

                    He’s very loving.

                    He’s everything he could be.

 

It is humbling to realize there are thousands of people praying for me.

 

          the Pentagon Office

          of Force Transformation

 

                    I’ve worn out my floors

                    praying.

 

 

Upstairs the first lady was entertaining friends.

 

          the frustrated battlefield CEO

          threw stupefying tantrums.

 

                    There are times I feel

                    I can’t breathe.

 

I put my hand on the Bible and I swore to protect America.

 

          thermabaric bombs, microwave weapons,

          unmanned aerial vehicles, Pack Boy robots

 

                    her baby boy in Kuwait

                    with a gun in his hands

 

For the next ten minutes, the president…sat in solitude, undisturbed.

 

          by perfecting precision weapons,

          forcing our enemies to rely on terrorism.

 

                    There is no way

                    for me to help him.

 

Amazingly calm.

 

          a kind of War-Mart

 

                    You have to let them go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.)  She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered”, on NPR.  Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother.  Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.

More detailed information is available at

 

 

www.JudithOffer.com

 

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