In honor of Bernie’s filibuster

December 12th, 2010

In honor of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 8 1/2 hour speech against President Obama’s giveaway to the rich, I’d like to share some lines I’ve been working on for the Purgatory volume of my Commedia.  On the merits of the Obama-GOP tax deal, I have no clear idea; it may be, as Obama and Clinton say, the best deal that could be procured at this time, although I don’t understand why the Democrats can’t just use the budget reconciliation process to neuter the threat of a GOP filibuster and pass the middle class tax cut extension without extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.  However that sugars out, I believe that Bernie is fighting the Good Fight and saying what needs to be said but so rarely is.  May his star shine in heaven.

I happen to be working just now on a section of my poem that seems particularly apropos.  In it, the protagonist, who has just spent the night hunkered beneath an equestrian statue in an abandoned factory district of an anonymous Rust Belt city, wakes up and walks along the river towards a bridge about half a mile away, musing about various things.  I have just finished the first draft of these lines, and ordinarily I would not make them public until quite some time had passed for me to become satisfied they need no further revision.  But I don’t think they’re embarrassing in their present state, and they seem so timely I can’t resist sharing them now:   

I roll from under the horse’s belly into its
shadow and stand.  No traffic here, but the
bridge’s deck bristles with boxy silhouettes
creeping, and lowing like distant cattle.
Although I’m eager to go, I hesitate
for one last view, panning the former
factories’ walls, their high up broken windows
that let in birds and rain, the weed-fringed
gaps between their bulks, the fences topped with
tinsely coils of razor wire

that ring the expanses of empty, cracked pavement
surrounding the empty, industrial carcasses
to protect their owners’ shares of emptiness.
Nothing golden’s to be found here.
Mayn rue platz – I hum a bar, and leave,
but the song’s sad Yiddish lilt stays
with me – vu lebns velkn bay mashinen
dortn iz mayn rue platz.
I walk a little slower than the river
flows, bemused by sweatshop ghosts and

puzzling at my last night’s dream as a plastic
jug and a beer can glide on by.
Froth draws pale lines on the murky waters.
I’m thinking how hard we hold on to nothing
that can be held, for fear of letting go
and fear of what will then be found
when nothing solidifies around us like amber,
and thinking how I hate the rich.
I hate their insistence that their desire to have
more than anyone else may need

must supercede another’s hunger, illness,
raggedness, misery, ignorance, cold.  Their
servants shove their offal, the filth of their leavings,
into everyone else’s yard, and
we are all their servants, and the lowest
among us take the deepest heaps.
I hate the way we scramble to be like them,
scramble towards the top of the heap they
pile ever higher, scrambling away from us.  I
hate their pride.  I hate their cruelty.

They dominate government, bend it to their ends,
and pretend it’s for the common good.
They damage the poor by appropriating to
themselves whatever the poor might need –
for surely the root of poverty’s lack of money –
then damn the poor for being so damaged.
I hate their hypocricy and I hate their charity,
giving whom they deem deserves it
what they deem will make them go away
in quiet and leave their wealth undisturbed.

I have known some children of the rich.
They had not accepted their riches.
There was the boy who pickled his brains in acid,
then gave money to things he thought might
better the world for people whose purchase on it was
shakier than his own.  There was the
boy who loaded his pickup truck with lobsters
he could share with those who let him
think they were his friends.  There was the girl who
gave herself to drink and poems.

Each a perfectly normal, fucked-up kid.
I could never have hated them, but
I could dedicate my life to their
destruction as a class.  “Class:” an
alien concept, here in the self-styled land of the
self-made, of law’s majestic equality.
But it’s a concept my grandfathers brought with them
from Europe’s bloodlands, and like the immigrants
run ashore at Plymouth Rock, whose sour
theology they thought New England’s winters

plainly ratified, my granddads saw no
reason to abandon the plank on
which they’d floated to Ellis Island, Houston, and
thence to Manhattan, Chicago, and other
places visibly inegalitarian.
I would like to see the rich
brought to a world where nothing owns them, standing
on a jetty, holding perhaps an
unfamiliar fruit they’ve bought from a vendor,
lost, confounded by possibility.

P.S. – If you like this, you’ll love To Join the Lost.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 12th, 2010 at 5:25 pm and is filed under Poems, Politics, society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “In honor of Bernie’s filibuster”

  1. Mack Says:

    Bernie should live to 120, and should do it in good health.

    That said, the reach of reconciliation as a parliamentary tool is quite limited. The Byrd (Robert, recently deceased Senator from the Great State of WV) Rules apply.

    Reconciliation generally involves legislation that changes the budget deficit (or conceivably, the surplus). The “Byrd Rule” (2 U.S.C. § 644, named after Democratic Senator Robert Byrd) was adopted in 1985 and amended in 1990 to outline which provisions reconciliation can and cannot be used for. The Byrd Rule defines a provision to be “extraneous” (and therefore ineligible for reconciliation) in six cases:

    1. if it does not produce a change in outlays or revenues;
    2. if it produces an outlay increase or revenue decrease when the instructed committee is not in compliance with its instructions;
    3. if it is outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;
    4. if it produces a change in outlays or revenues which is merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
    5. if it would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure, though the provisions in question may receive an exception if they in total in a Title of the measure net to a reduction in the deficit; and
    6. if it recommends changes in Social Security.

    The suggestion by the author that reconciliation should have been used may well founder on reconciliation’s inapplicability to the facts. Let the record reflect that my having “researched” the issue more than the author does not mean that I have a clue, either.

  2. Seth Steinzor Says:

    Um, wouldn’t a tax cut bill qualify as non-extraneous (and therefore eligible for reconciliation) because it would produce a non-incidental change in revenues? Seems to me like it’s the paradigmatic case for reconciliation. On the other hand, I know less about senatorial procedure than the average house cat.

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