April 2011 Archives

A Poem for Wisconsin


"We're actually talking to real people at real companies who are the real middle class.  Not the tens of thousands of protesters that have been brought in, not only from around Wisconsin but from Nevada, Illinois, and New Jersey, increasingly coming in from other states . . . big union bosses from Washington sending in thugs."
                    --Gov. Scott Walker, March 15, 2011, Wausau, Wisconsin

So who were those people I met in Madison
the day we took the Square over a hundred-
thousand strong, stood in the snow and icy wind
slashing as budget cuts for the poor?
The nurse from Eau Claire.
The first-grade teacher from Appleton.
The fire-fighter from Waukesha.
The owner of the sign shop in Milwaukee,
there with AARP for his first demonstration ever.
The cop who came back to join the protesters
after his shift guarding the Capitol.
The corrections officer holding a sign that read
The organic farmer passing out warm foil-wrapped yams.

Unreal middle class?
And students, college and high school, more pseudo-
middle class apparently.
I wonder what "real" means to you, Governor Walker.
You thought that blogger was the "real" David Koch.
How is your grasp of reality?
Could it be a few dozen captive-audience workers
in Wausau or Hudson are more real to you than we are?
Speaking of real, you'd have planted phony protester provocateurs
to turn the demonstrations ugly if you could.
But the police and fire-fighters -- really real --
knew what might happen and did their best to make sure
it didn't.  That warmed this old
Sixties protester's heart.
Among us "thugs," crowded together
in the March chill of Madison for foot-
freezing hours, a kindness prevailed, triumphed,
a decency in which you had no part.

(Note:  Since I haven't yet found time to write an adequate commentary in this space regarding the recent political turmoil in my home state of Wisconsin, let this poem serve as a place-keeper.  It first appeared on the wonderful Verse Wisconsin web site along with many other thoughtful and passionate poems inspired by the actions in defense of working families in Wisconsin.  I recommend you visit Verse Wisconsin at www.versewisconsin.org, where you will also find a couple other new poems of mine in response to the current resistance.  One of them, "To the New Student Protesters," is being presented as part of a group of 14 broadsides by Wisconsin poets to our heroic "Wisconsin 14" senators who temporarily left for Illinois in order to buy time for the public to learn more about the Governor's disastrous "budget repair" bill.  Thanks, Wisconsin 14, from one of the "Poetry 14"!)