Poems of Protest | Lola Ridge, Wendy Trevino, William Rowe, Juliana Spahr, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Kirill Medvedev


Lola Ridge

Red Flag

Red flag waving over Spartacus,
Red cloth stripped from a gladiator’s loins
To flutter in the milk-warm wind along the roads of Capua,
Red flag shaken like a bloody hand in the face of kings . . .
Red clout stuck on a spoke —
There flaunting gay as a red rose pinned
On a beggar’s cap in London Town —
Or clenched in a maimed hand  . . .
A red and a white rose smashed together . . .
Red shoots mauled and trodden yet ever sprouting  anew
Till the lopped staff blooms again . . .
Red flower of the barricades —
First over the scarp and last left lying                                                                                                                                                            like spat-up blood upon the snow,
When ice-fangs bristle in the cooled-off guns
And dawn creeps in between the forepaws of the silence                                                                                                                        that crouches above the dead . . .

Red light burning down the centuries . . .
Red fire dwindling to a spark but never out . . .
Gleaming a moment on Bunker Hill . . . sinking,                                                                                                                                          a blown-out flame,                                                                                                                                                                                        leaving a deeper greyness . . .
Red Flag over the domes of Moscow . . .
There gleaming like a youth’s shed blood on gold
Red flag kerchief of the sun —
Over-devastation I salute you


Russian Women

You swing of necessity into male rhythms
that at once become female rhythms;
you take high place
as hills take sun —
being inevitable there
in the path of the sun.
Yet in you there is no peace,
but infinite collisions,
impact of charged atoms
in ceaseless vibration.
In you unimagined circuits,
in you uncoiled
passion electric —
the stroke swift
and the recoil as swift . . .
in you the unidentified power —
hysteria directed,
the world force.


The White Bird

Man of the flame-eyes
And mouth with the bitter twist of ingrown laughter,
And little bald man . . . whose seeming stillness
Is askin to the velocity of a spinning star
Holding its perfect poise —
You two yea-sayers
Beetling over the little deniers,
Two great levelers, building from the earth up                                                                                                                                              among puttiers and sluggers of rotten piles —
You of the life running in ample measure                                                                                                                                                        amidst life deleted of its old raw fire                                                                                                                                                          as earth is deleted of its coal and iron —
You be mighty hunters and keepers,
Trotsky and Lenin —
Yet can you hold
The unconstrainable One
Of the slow and flaming deaths
And multiple resurrections?

Hands, reaching in hundreds of millions,
Backs, straightening under the keeling floor of the world,
Can you hold the great white bird?
— She that sweeps low over the chain-gangs
When they glance up from their stone-breaking
Into the morning’s burning gold —
She that goes down into underground cells
Sending the cool wind of her wings
Through unsevering stone . . .
And departs, unbeknown, from those who announce her,
Saying : lo, she is ours!

Ah what a mighty destiny would be yours,
Should you persuade her —
The unconstrainable One
Who has slid out of the arms of so many lovers,
Leaving not a feather in their hands.



Though your wild dreams
May die perhaps on the cemented stone
That they have cracked asunder . . . making way
For lopped things trampled in the dust and blood
Of the year’s barricades . . . and hopes that died
Alone against blank walls . . . yet what new growths
Against the cobbled ways . . . and all the green
Battened down dreams of the world quickening . . .
Like spirals of aborted pines that strain
To touch their tips with stars.

(from Lola Ridge | To the Many)




Wendy Trevino


Santander Bank was smashed into!
I was getting nowhere with the novel & suddenly the
reader became the book & the book was burning
& you said it was reading
but reading hits you on the head
so it was really burning & the reader was
dead & I was happy for you & I had been
standing there awhile when I got your text
Santander Bank was smashed into!
there were barricades in London
there were riot girls drinking riot rosé
the party melted into the riot melted into the party
like fluid road blocks & gangs & temporary
autonomous zones & everyone & I
& we all stopped reading


Dude, You’re an Asshole

Everybody knows the centres of neutralisation, where it is required that no emotion
stands out, where each one has to contain himself & everybody experiences them
as such: enterprises (the family included), parties, sports centres, art galleries, etc.
— Call, Tiqqun


You’re a bumper, shock  absorbers, brake pads
You’re a scab, an officer in plain clothes, a plant with a sewing machine
You’re the Christian indie rock band on the Kill Rock Stars label
You’re the ambient mumbling of Interpol & attenuation
You know who you are
I am Keyser Söze, one of those women
Who hits back, I’m not interested in your metaphysics or discretion
Your inability to drive on the interstate or let your inner hyena out
I don’t care if you can sympathize with the sentiment                                                                                                                                                                           Dude, you’re an asshole
With your perfect playlist & spotless dance floor
With your simultaneous offerings of whisky, drinking etiquette & coffee
I refuse to dance at your lock-in or be ambushed
By your youth group, I refuse to call a dozen people wearing red
Awkwardly nursing their margaritas in a kitchen
A red party                              I promise you will be negated
Fuck the Burning Man you read about




I want to write an Alma who goes into the street.
With the sound of breaking glass all around you
She is close enough you hear the dead women
Out of nowhere say, “Take everything.“

You are, A history of revolt resulting in new forms of oppression. You are concentrated
in close proximity to the dilapidated plantations and ranches. You’re at all the punk
& hip hop shows. Something happened. The pigs went off. The jury came back with
a verdict. Negotiations failed. The fascists were coming together. Comrades starving
themselves in jail. You might have been skating less, which is how it is when what you
do could at any point involve you in zip ties. Like leaving the house. If you have one.
Whether you put it to yourself that way made no difference. You were done. Negative.

You think it’d be more interesting to write of being in it. To describe the dance, which
is to say the steps. A barrage of arrivals & moving on. A constant refashioning of the
on-hand. Almost midnight & you’re saying Oakland, OK, I understand, comparing
choices to all the protection you’re supposed to have, “making them anyway“ — to
quote a friend.


5 Out of 13 Ways of Looking at Poetry
Not Being Enough

If you were to wear a shirt that said LEAVE ME ALONE
People might not talk to you or harass you or assault you.
You might put them off. You might manage
To trick them, this time. That you weren’t even trying
Is a terrible sign — like an intersection with signs

It’s the difference between ALL ROADS LEAD
YOURSELF OUT. I’m talking about the promises
Of art & promises of civil war. I’m saying the coldness
Of that adjective is no match for the heat in parts of the south
Or for being without water or running out of food.

People make things that reflect how they live, where.
These things are not to be confused with the shadows
They cast. When I write a poem I write about things
Like shadows, execute certain tricks. I can see why
People have compared it to dance, but have you ever
Danced in the streets? It’s better not to do it by yourself.

Terrorist attacks are a consequence of wars
You’re not supposed to know about. Planes
Flying into towers don’t start wars more than you
Not shopping. It’s no wonder you believe magicians are men
With magic hats that double as wormholes for rabbits
From galaxies far far away & magical women for so long.

At most, I can see a painting being like a bluff, a view
Of the back of your opponent’s cards when you’re playing
For money & you’ve already lost more than you planned.
But your relationship with it isn’t the most important
Or interesting one. Your love won’t change what a painting
I, which is someone’s time spent working for someone else.


Revolutionary Letter

one thing i’ve learned / come to a provisional conclusion about:
when it comes to fighting, there are people who will help you
fight & there are people who will not & there are people
who will stand in the way. find the people who will help / be loud
& clear so they know where you are — focus on them, be encouraged
by them, encourage them, work with them. don’t worry
about the people who won’t help. they will be of no help even
if they are on your side. waste as little energy as possible
fighting people who stand in the way, which is to say don’t talk
don’t argue, just get them out of the way of the fight you came for.

tl;dr: you don’t need or want
the people who you know
aren’t “with you“ to be
with you. really, you don’t

(from Wendy Trevino | Cruel Fiction)




William Rowe

Letter to Timothy Garton Ash

For Stephen Watts

have you walked from Blackfriars to the
Strand through the legal gardens and
smelt the death molecules in the air
not the infectious miasma of bodies that
threatened to close everything down
including the novel itself in Dickens’s
Bleak House      because European
social democracy has cleaned up and
removed it it also removed anything
that could have stopped fascism that’s
not part of your narrative      the last
palace of words      the body as it denies


we shall never serve
under a red flag
the magic word
and black reflux after
Athens and Schäuble
and the will of the people
trodden and pissed on
(to make sure they won’t do it again)
reduced to particles anxiety
hunted burnt or gassed
imprisoned at
what has no name


have you felt the death molecules in the air
the particles that penetrate your words
can you hear the
time alarm
when the dead demand
the food they didn’t eat
which Ritsos heard in the Makrónisos prison
Greek Civil War 1949
European social democracy


Putin must be stopped and sometimes
only guns can stop guns
Schäuble is one of the most remarkable
politicians I have known
at the end of the day what matters is what will work
yes you wrote that


but schäuble is actually insane and
it’s the voice of the dead says it
and can you hear it


hunted burnt and gassed



the unvomited


vomit vomit vomit vomit vomit vomit vomit




the place has no
is not a place


say syria, palestine, hungary, germany, england and others
say it’s easier to destroy the world
than to destroy capitalism


say black square
is the place


in which
dead do walk


not overlapping



Thatcher’s dead


on the way to the party on the 159 did you
know that Jimmy Savile was a friend of
Thatcher’s and what about all the other child
molesters but Rolf Harris wasn’t was he i was
fined 80 quid for pissing in the street did you
know if a pregnant woman wants to piss a
policeman is obliged to hold up his cape and
protect her the one who said that was
probably a cop SWP he said


inside a crime
is where i’m going


Margaret Thatcher died today
long live death i shouted
that’s a fascist slogan you said
it’s ours today i said
viva la muerte


her bag of bleeding flesh
and the cynical morning
and the murderous sky
let the music vomit her out


it would be better if you lined them up
against a wall and shot them than this grinding


i would not wish death on anyone
you said


i don’t desire to break her law
i want to have done with it
viva la muerte



her wildly screaming


the spirit of ever-living and unwritten wilderness
and of the world of the dead — Hölderlin, ‘Antigone’.


her wild tears
at dawn
cut the knot of pleasure
with total scission

someone else is the witness
there is no witness
spectres turn away


ah corpse-eaters
and murderers of the dead
oh tories and labour and corporations and hedge funds and IMF and
ECB and EU finance ministers
and all you who shit on the poor the disabled the out of work the
non-bullies the exploited in bullshit jobs
the unnecessary
you’re the dead dead

the immortal dead
wait for justice

no more suicides!

(from William Rowe | Collected Poems)




Juliana Spahr


Sometimes it feels like it is over and it’s not.
Sometimes it feels like it has just begun and it’s over.


It’s dark often at these times.
Urban though, so a certain version of light too.
It’s hard to predict if it will start on time or how late.
I’m often a little late and it has started. Last night, I could tell from the
      copters overhead that I was late.
As I walked up, the blocks around it were emptying out.
Parents pulled their children home.
The night herons settled into trees.
That’s the outer ring.
As I got closer, all that was left were the blinking lights of the motor-
      cycles blocking the intersections and the men and few women in
      uniforms that mill about the corner, helmets in their hands. They
      talked among themselves. Ignored me mainly. One told me how to
      get around. I did not clarify that I was walking towards.
You can hear it sometimes. It often has a soundtrack. Sometimes it has
       drums and brass. Sometimes just joy.
When I am late I am trying to guess its path. Last night, several times I
       got close to it only to be turned back by a line of cops.


They let the media through but turned me back.
Then it turned the corner and there it was.
At that moment, I melted my body into it and it embraced me.
Rosy fingered dusk and all that.
Come here, it sang, listen.
And then I was borne along by the waves all night and the whirlpool,
      the fig tree, and I was the bat, hanging on patiently.
Aarav came up and hugged me.
Someone grabbed me from behind and I thought it is Artem but later
     realized it was Berat. So much mask.
I grabbed Charlotte’s hand and held it for a while when things felt
It felt dicey as they cornered us from two sides and we went down the
       tight side street, up the hill. Charlotte’s hand.
It’s like that.
Moving from isolation to the depths of friends.


At first we didn’t mask up. We were poets.
Then slowly one by one we did.
As we got turnt.
As I got turnt I mean.
Sometimes I still don’t mask up. It often feels hubristic.
I keep a bandana in my pocket.
It isn’t super effective. It falls down a lot.
Last night, I tied it around my neck as we walked up the side street hill.
      I pulled it over my face as I walked past the line of cops. I noticed
      Emma there, throwing eggs. I ducked. Two balloons filled with
      paint flew by. Visors suddenly yellow.


She said to me, how is your heart?
And I at first worried her question.
Then I realized she meant my heart and how it was turnt.
It is good, I said, I am opening it; I am expanding it.
And I meant it.
I love you I texted Felix.
Lub u!!!!!! I texted Haruto.
Texting Isabella and Jackson, I love you guys.
I miss you.
I texted love you some forty-three times in the last few years.
I texted < 3 some thirty-three times.
Lub u, eighteen times.
Miss you, thirty-eight.


She said your feed is all riots, plants, picnics, and poets.
It was an accusation.
She was noticing that I had got turnt.
And I said, my son, my son is in my feed too.
I didn’t bother to argue the riot with her.


Still, oh that moment.
Turnt moment:


I was at the poetry reading and Mia didn’t go. She was supposed to
       read too but she didn’t. She said she wanted to see what happens.
       Then she texts I love you and I know then that Trader Joe’s has
       been looted. All the wines out in the street.
Such sweet elixir, FOMO.
Then the rest of that night.
We quickly say good-byes after the reading, refuse the offer of going to
      drinks, careen from the reading to our home. One of us on twit-
      ter the entire time. Texting too. While we are driving, one of us at
      home runs out into the streets, towards the gas. I drive up and two
      of us get out of the car and I stay in the car and drive the few blocks
      home. My son has fallen asleep in the back. I am coughing in the
      car from the gas. He sleeps through it. I take him out and carry him
      up to bed. More texts. I love you, I text. Come by and get me when
      you are done.


Later that night, I go out again. Miguel stays home with Minjoon. I go
      to a fight party; Marxist v. Nihilist. No one knows which is which.
      Mohamed, my fighting teacher, fights. I miss it. I love you I text.
      She texts back I’m high on being slugged; my eyes are swollen; I
      lost; I’m turnt.
Standing outside, a woman gets kicked out of the club. The bouncer
      tosses her out and into us. She is fucked up. And this feels awful to
      her. Her arms wildly swinging indicate this awful feeling. It feels
      awful to us. Another woman tries to help her and she slugs her. She
      misses and the woman who she has tried to slug takes her, calms
      her down. I hear her saying I love you, I love you over and over.
      Later I will learn that she spent the entire night talking the woman
      down. It’s like that. When turnt, sometimes one needs to be held.
Still later, I stand on the street, outside my house and watch the
      t-mobile get looted. A man tries to stop another man who has
      his hammer at the ready in front of the window. The man who is
      attempting to stop the hammer gets hit in the face with the butt
      of the hammer. I decide to go to bed. It is 3 am. I text Nathan and
      say I love you and I’ll leave the key in the box for you. The march
      continues on, Nathan continues on, turns left a block away and
      then when Nathan texts me back I know the Whole Foods is looted
      and they are all drinking champagne, dancing. All of them will get
      a cold later.
Riot champagne becomes a term among us that winter.
I wasn’t there but I was there too. My germs were there.
I too had that cold.


Is this poem too heroic?
I am sorry.
I worry it is.
Or I know it is.
We are turnt to mere vandals at moments. I’ll admit it.
Every computer in that shop.
Every phone in that one.
Every car in that car lot.


I don’t want it to be heroic but last night I turned the corner and Nor
      was there with her bike and when I saw her I said I love you and
      we walked down the street as each window was cracked. They got
      turnt. Eventually we disperse. I jog for a few minutes away and out
      of the kettle. We joke, circle back to watch a car burn. Oliver walks
      by. He is hurrying towards the dispersal. I love you we say to him as
      he heads off. The car burns. The fire truck arrives. As I stand there
      watching it, it is as if everyone I ever texted I love you to walks
      by. I love you we call out to each other.
A group of women walk by the car and stop to take photographs. So
      much joy they have. They are laughing with such triumph. Selfies
      and all. Turnt.


This poem is true. I have texted I love you and its variations over
     and over.
Sometimes I barely knew you.
But the names are not true.
This is not a coterie poem.
Is it a milieu poem?
Can it be a movement poem?
I took all the names of this poem and never wrote them in.
There is no electronic record of them.
I found a list of the most popular baby names for various countries in
      2015, the year in which I am writing this poem. I made a list, one
      male and one female from each list. Then I alphabetized it. And I
      put those names in this poem one by one. I got to O.
But Olivia, Saanvi, Santiago, Seoyeon, Sofia, Yui, and Zeynep, I love
      you too.



Transitory, Momentary

The Brent geese fly in long low wavering lines on their migrations.
They start in western Europe, fatten in Iceland, then fly over the
Greenland ice cap to Canada. They sometimes breed on the Arctic
coasts of central and western Siberia and winter in western Europe,
some in England, the rest in Germany and France. What I have to
offer here is nothing revolutionary. They learn the map from their
parents, or through culture rather than through genetics. It is just an
observation, a small observation that sometimes art can hold the oil
wars and all that they mean and might yet mean within. Just as
sometimes there are seven stanzas in a song. And just as sometimes
there is a refrain between each stanza. And just as often this sort of
song tells a certain sort of story, one about having something and then
losing it. Just as sometimes the refrain of a song is just one word said
four times. Just as sometimes the word is huge, sometimes coming
from a machine and yet hitting in the heart; uplifting and ironic and
big enough to hold all these things in its four syllables. Just as some-
times, often even, it contradicts, and thus works with, the stanzas. Just
as the police clear out yet another public space and yet another camera
follows along behind. Just as the stream has no narration, only ambient
noise. And the police move slowly, methodically in a line as if they are
a many-legged machine. They know what they are doing. It is their
third time clearing the park and they will clear it many more times and
then they will win and a building will be built where there once was
the park. In this song, as is true of many songs, it is unclear why the
singer has lost something, maybe someone. In this time, the time of
the oil wars, there are many reasons that singers give for being so lost.
Often they are lost because of love. Sometimes they are lost because of
drugs. Sometimes they have lost their country and in their heart it feels
as if they have lost something big. And then sometimes they are lost
just because they are in Bakersfield. Really though they are lost
because in this time song holds loss. And this time is a time of loss.
The police know, as they move through the park yet one more time,
that they will win and a building will be built on the space. But right
now, the building is not there. All that is there are the police and
debris and the police deal with the debris. They push over book-
shelves, open up boxes and look inside, tear into tents, awkwardly, the
poles springing. They are only there to see if any humans remain.
Tomorrow the bulldozers will push the debris into big piles and load it
into trucks. The police wear white helmets and short sleeves under
their kevlar vests. For many years the Brent geese ate eelgrass, but once
the eelgrass was gone to the wasting disease and the estuaries filled,
they moved inland to agricultural lands and began eating grasses and
winter-sown cereals. The Brent geese are social, adaptable. They fly
around together, learning from each other, even as these groups are
often unstable, changing from season to season. Songs in their most
popular versions tend to be epiphanic, gorgeous with swelling chord
changes, full of lament too. And this song, like many, expresses the
desire to be near someone who is now lost. It travels as something
layered, infiltrated, unconfused with its refusals to make a simple
sense. I want to give you this song sung in a bar in Oakland one night
during the ongoing oil wars. The singer had clearly been lost once, but
they sang as someone who eventually got in the car and drove out of
Bakersfield, perhaps early in the morning, the sun just starting to rise,
or perhaps later after sun-up, the light washing out everything in
Bakersfield as the sun is wont to do there. Eventually they arrived to
sing this song. This might have taken them many years. There was
nothing that implied that the lostness was recent. But the lostness, it
was clear, was huge and had been experienced fully by them. It
probably doesn’t matter where the sun was that day in Bakersfield
when they got in the car. It probably just matters that there is a sun,
still, and they got in the car and drove, drove through the oil fields with
their wells pumping out amber colored oils and their refineries with
tall towers that heat the oil so as to sort its various viscosities, and drove
through the black cloud that is the slow constant burn of the oil wars.
Then at some point they were in Oakland. The oil near Bakersfield is
heavy but it often benchmarks against the Brent blend. Brent blend is
a light crude oil, though not as light as West Texas Intermediate. It
contains approximately 0.37% of sulphur, classifying it as sweet crude,
yet not as sweet as West Texas Intermediate. When the park is cleared
and the building is built, it will headquarter an oil company. When
this oil company named their oil fields off the coast of Scotland, they
choose the names of water birds in alphabetical order: Auk, Brent,
Cormorant, Dunlin, Eider, Fulmar, and so on. Brent is also an
acronym for the Jurassic Brent formation that makes up the Brent
oilfield, for Broom, Rannoch, Etive, Ness, and Tarbert. About two
thirds of oil is benchmarked against what is called the Brent Crude Oil
Spot price. Petroleum suppliers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East
often price their oil according to Brent Crude’s value on the Interconti-
nential Exchange if it is being sold to the West. The Brent Crude Oil
Spot price is set in dollars, maintained by force, endlessly manipulated
by commodity futures markets. The refrain is the moment when the
singer makes it clear that they understand something about what is
being lost. It was obvious they had lost their country, it being taken
over by bankers and all. They had clearly been rejected. Loved too
much and gotten too little of it back in return, many times. But none
of this matters, it was obvious, in comparison to what is now being lost
for that night even though the song is about a minor loss, about the loss
of tongue on clit or cock, the singer seemed to understand something
about the other things that are lost. While a formation of police clear
the far side of the park of the debris of its occupation, another forma-
tion of police on the other side shoot the new gasses, the ones we do
not yet know by name, into another part of the park where people are
now clustered. This camera  has sound and every few seconds there is a
pop. It is unevenly steady. The song is just about two people who are
not near each other, who have probably chosen not to be near each
other any more. The song reflects and refracts the oil in ways both
relevant and trivial in how it tells about what happens when one lets
love go, when one gives up the tongue. It might be that only through
the minor we can feel enormity. It might be that there is nothing to
epiphany if it does not hint at the moment of sweaty relation larger
than the intimate. For what is epiphanic song if it doesn’t spill out and
over the many that are pulled from intimacies by oil’s circulations?
The truckers, the sailors and deckhands, the assembly line workers,
those who maintain the pipelines, those who drive support in the
caravans that escort the tankers, the fertilizers, the thousands of
interlocking plastic parts, the workers who move two hundred miles
and live in a dorm near a factory, alone, those on the ships who spend
fifty weeks circulating with the oil unable to talk to each other because
of no shared language and so are left only with two weeks in each year
where they can experience the tongue in meaningful conversation. A
life that is only circulations. Before the police come, before the
building, in the middle of one night, a group of people form a line
leading to the entrance of the park. Or several groups form several
lines, all leading to the entrance. Some wear medical masks. Some
wear glasses too. All pass bricks, one by one, down the line so as to
make a pile. They are silent for the most part, silent enough that it is
possible to hear the bricks make a clink as they fall. The pile gets
bigger and bigger. It is waist high. Then chest high. Some get out of
the line and climb on the pile, hold both their hands in the air because
they know now is the transitory, momentary triumph and it should be
felt. Others continue passing brick after brick, from one hand to
another hand, arms extended, torsos at moments also going back and
forth with the bricks. When they run out of bricks, the pile is topped
with fencing. Then they gather behind it, waiting. Back there, some-
one might possibly be singing to a child, singing the epiphanic song
that alludes to losing the moment of tongue on clit or cock over and
over because the child cannot be comforted, because the singer knows
only loss. The room will be dark. The light will be on in the hall.
There will be shadows, in other words. And the singer will know about
these shadows at this moment and know they had agreed to be with
shadows when they had the child. They had gambled in a sense on a
question of sustaining. They had agreed to exist from now on with a
shadow. A shadow of love and a shadow of the burning of the oil fields that
has already happened and is yet to come and yet must come and a million
other shadows that might possibly disappear in the light at that moment.






Tongo Eisen-Martin


A tour guide through your robbery
He also is

Cigarette saying, “look what I did about your silence.”

Ransom water and box spring gold
–This decade is only for accent grooming, I guess

Ransom water and box spring gold
–The corner store must die

War games, I guess

All these tongues rummage junk

The start of mass destruction
Begins and ends
In restaurant bathrooms
That some people use
And other people clean

“you telling me there’s a rag in the sky?”
-waiting for you. yes-

we’ve written
we’ve set a stage

We should have fit in. warehouse jobs are for communists. But now more corridor and hallway have walked into our lives. Now the whistling is less playful and the barbed wire is overcrowded too.

My dear, if it is not a city, it is a prison.
If it has a prison, it is a prison. Not a city.

When a courtyard talks on behalf of military issue,
all walks take place outside of the body.

Dear life to your left
A medieval painting to your right

None of this makes an impression

Crop people living in thin air
You got five minutes
to learn how to see
through this breeze

When a mask goes sideways,
Barbed wire becomes the floor
Barbed wire becomes the roof
Forty feet into the sky
becomes out of bounds

When a mask breaks in half,
mind which way the eyes go.

They killed the world for the sake of giving everyone the same backstory

We’re watching Gary, Indiana fight itself into the sky

Old pennies for wind. For that wind feeling you get before the hood goes up and over your headache. Pennies that stick together (mocking all aspirations). Stuck together pennies was the first newspaper I ever read. Along with the storefront dwelling army that always lets us down.

Where the holy spirit favors the backroom. Souls in a situation that offer one hundred ways to remain a loser. Souls watching the clock hoping that eyes don’t lie to sad people.

“what were we talking about again?”
the narrator asked the graveyard
-ten minutes flat-
said the graveyard
-the funeral only took ten minutes-
“never tell that to anyone again,”
the narrator severely replied

“You just going to pin the 90s on me?”
-all thirty years of them-
“Then why should I know the difference between sleep and satire?”

the pyramid of corner stores fell on our heads
-we died right away

that building wants to climb up and jump off another building
-these are downtown decisions

somewhere on this planet, it is august 7th

and we’re running down the rust thinking, “one more needs to come with me”

evaporated on earth,
so that we could be
sent back down?



The Course of Metal

Apparently, too much of San Francisco was not there in the first place

This dream requires more condemned Africans
State violence rises down
Still life is just getting warmed up
army life is looking for a new church and ignored all other suggestions
folk tale writers have not made up their minds as to who is going to be their friends

“this is the worst downtown yet. And I’ve borrowed a cigarette everywhere
…I’ve taken many walks to the back of buses…that led on out the back of a story teller’s prison sentence… then on out the back of slave scars.”

“this is my comeback face. Though I know you can’t tell…”

“I left my watch on the public bathroom sink and took the toilet with me. I threw it at the first bus I saw eating single mothers half alive. It flew through the line number… then on out the front of the white house”

hopefully you find comfort downtown. But if not, we’ve brought you enough cigarette filters to make a decent winter coat

a special species of handshake
let’s all know who’s king and what the lifespan is of uniform cloth

this coffin needs to quit acting like those are birds singing
those rusty nails have no wings
and have no voice other than a white world dying
there are indeed book pages in the gas pump
catchy isn’t it?
the way three nooses is the rule
the way potato sack masks go well with radio codes

Or the way condemned Africans fought their way back to the ocean only to find waves made of
burned up 1920’s piano parts
European backdoor deals
and red flowers for widows who spend all day in the sun mumbling at San Francisco

“what’s the color of a doctor visit?”

Book titles in the street like:

*Hero, You’d Make A Better Zero*

*Fur Coat Lady, The President Is Dead*

*Pay Me Back In Children*

*They Hung Up Their Bodies In Their Own Museums*

-and other book titles pulled out of a drum solo

-lied the hiding place

all the bullets in ten precincts know where to go
no heaven (nor any other good ideas) are in the sky
politics means: people did it and people do it.
understand that when in San Francisco
and other places that were never really there

bet this ocean thinks it’s an ocean
but it’s not.
it’s sixth and mission.

“All know who is king. King of thin things. Like america. I’m proud to deserve to die… I will eat my dinner extra slow tonight in this
police state candy dispenser that
you all call a neighborhood… “

no set of manners
goes unpunished
never mind about
a murderer’s insomnia
or the tea kettle preparing everyone for police sirens



Skid Bid

Here comes the tap water whistling passed our heads
Institution tile under brake pedals
Matching the white watches
Painted on palms for smash and grab recollections
people who are related by ballad:
hotplate failures fishing for proletarians
the matchstick that is a draft card
(by the time the loner finishes sweeping the train)
also related by ballad:
under-paved streets hanging like strips of film in thin air

I miss the carpentry more than the religion

I tore the tattoo out of my uncle’s picture and lent it to my friends
one left cross at a time

–life mimed behind my back

they say, the child would do better upside down:

the child’s cake party is in the precinct/mainstream tune playing upside down
a t-shirt with their face printed on a cop’s thumb

twenty-eight hours later, a headrest will do

the city rain feels like clientele
I dozed on the back of a bus and
woke up in the mind of a three-story man

“God wants you here with that crowbar in your hand… all of the world is a third floor.”

seasons invent themselves
but we invent the underground

—cause and effect is nothing but a casual venue I once played—

he decided not to kill me like giving loose change
don’t teeter now, tall man
I was nobody at point blank
nobody finally again

lung first I fell

a love
a rule
a hate

dance moves within murder attempts within dance moves

Lean back and be celebrated by small people,” he said. The clothes on my life teacher needed new patches. “Sit back and disrespect it all

“I’ve given up on counterrevolution,” I said
Well then here is your weapon, Little Bank

—That’s our father you are writing graffiti on—

Horn players beat him up
and everyone left the altercation a better person

“knowing what you know now
would you still have written fortunes
on the bottom of church shoes
and put them back on the rack?”

“How does everyone think that a rich guy is their twin?”
-along with other tantrums is my cue

fortune teller half sleeps while talking about a mayor treading all over the posters in my childhood room and how cold calculation mothers nothing
and a vision of chess pieces in chains…….

He says,
“Then you will have fear. Then you will have form.”

(from Tongo Eisen-Martin | Heaven Is All Goodbyes)




Kirill Mevedev

Attack on City Hall

they said we could have an antifascist meeting, but not a march.
the human rights activist Lev Ponomarev and I went to City Hall
to find out what was up.
Ponomarev was very angry. I tried to restrain him
“I’ll teach them to let the fascists march,“ he said.
You got the feeling this wasn’t going to end well.

The deputy head of the department for large demonstrations, Vasily Oleynik,
turned out to be a fat rosy little man.

“You see,“ he began, smiling, “the decision on this matter has already been made.”
“Do you know Russian?“ Ponomarev asked grimly.
“But we’re speaking Russian right now!” said Oleynik.
“No. If that’s how you begin a conversation, then you don’t know Russian,“
said Ponomarev.

That’s how it began, with a little light antagonism,
but then it seemed to improve.
There was smiling, and diplomacy.
“But of course you understand, Lev Alexandrovich.“
“Yes of course, Vasily Vasilievich.”

“We already told everyone about the march,” I said grimly.
“There’s no going back.” Oleynik began citing legalities.
Pono gave as good as he got
in that department,
and my attention wandered a little.
Once they start in with the clauses and sub-clauses and anti-clauses
everything turns into a joke, a scam, like in court
(and I don’t like these kinds of scams).
Outside, I could see the river.
I recalled how, on October 2, 1993, the night before the opposition
stormed City Hall,
the cops took a group of us in
for supposedly breaking a window at the self-same City Hall.
At the precinct I argued very convincingly
that we hadn’t broken any windows,
and the cops let us go.
Later on it turned out that the window had been broken
by me,
but I’d forgotten.
Oh holy drunkenness!
How easy and pleasant it is to lie!
Have you heard how jackals cry?
Now, in City Hall, I remember the cry of some jackals in an Abkhazian village.
It’s not even a cry,
It’s like some wedding party has spilled out into the
Spills out and yells and sings and sings aloud!
in that village the people feared an invasion of raccoons, from the north,
from the Russian border.
I was startled from these thoughts by noises in the office —

a crunching, running, turning over of chairs —
my worst fears had materialized —
Ponomarev was beating the shit out of Oleynik!

I started running around him, crying,
“Lev Alexandrovich, no, don’t,
oy, please don’t, why?”

Through my protestations you could hear
Oleynik, moaning,
then he stopped moaning, because I started thinking,
and it was as if the sound
had been turned off, leaving only he picture, which unspooled in slow motion.

Nor could I hear what Ponomarev was saying.
But what can a person say who’s proudly defending
his rights?
But he was talking:
“I know you, you spoiled little socialists,
unable to defend yourselves or others.
Quasi-sectarians, children,
ignorant of your rights.
Little marginal whiners.

Old maids from the library.
Are you a subculture or a political party —
make up your minds —
what are you?”

Oleynik’s boss, Kadatsky, didn’t come
to the aid of his deputy. He was at a meeting.
He’d sent Oleynik to meet with us
but didn’t come to help him, just stayed at the meeting.
A sense of one’s rights gives a person physical force,
I thought, watching as Pono smashed up Oleynik.
Whereas we, on the left, never really feel our rights,
just the ephemeral right to utopia.
All those years of discussing the victims of the revolution
have frozen our blood,
have turned us into
frightened ducklings, unable to defend our own rights,
much less someone else’s,
thought I, already out into the street,
out of that hell,
riding the subway home late in the evening.
And I’d have kept thinking this way,
for quite a while,
except the I got an email from Ponomarev:
They still hadn’t allowed the march.
Tomorrow we head again for City Hall.



On the way to defend the forest
I thought about powerlessness.
In my mind I turned over the old thought about how
the use of weapons is the sign of powerlessness.
That’s what I was thinking about
when a division of the OMON riot police started coming toward us,
and everyone freaked out, not from a philosophical but from a
very earthly and real feeling of powerlessness.
I giddily recalled a line from some anarchist manifesto
about how only those who have weapons
are able to philosophize about pacifism.
if they just gave us some weapons, I thought, we could do some great
philosophizing about pacifism.
And then suddenly from this apex of our powerlessness a weapon appeared:

We parted and from out of this mass of student-pacifists, useless
intellectuals and local pensioners,
a machine gun started firing.
The OMON troops started falling
like the trees of the Khimki forest.
“But the main thing is for there to be no revolution,“ said the environmentalist Evgenia Chirikova
as we stood over the bloody troops of the riot police wondering what to do next.
“There were fewer people killed during the October Revolution than there were today,“ I said.
“But then consider how many people were killed during the civil war,“ said Mikhail, next to me.
“That’s because the army and the police didn’t come over to the side of the people,“
said someone else nearby,
and then we drank a little vodka,
we all drank for the police and the army
to come over to the side of the people,
that is to say our side,
and at that moment we saw on the highway,
dressed up as OMON fighters
in camouflage suits the color of the forest,
our reinforcements were on their way.




if you’re having some problems, or feeling sad, I recommend you take a weekend evening
and go with a group of antifascists to Myasnitskaya Street, next to the Moo-Moo Cafe,
and while hearing people honking in the distance start heading for the center,
reach the beautiful empty square at Lubyanka,
pass by the FSB thinking about
how one day we’ll pass by this rotten citadel
in such a way that nothing
will be left of it,
round the corner and find,
to your surprise, that the guards at Lubyanka aren’t reacting at all,
are even, it seems, showing you respect,
reach Kuznetsky Most while shouting “Freedom to Denis Solopov!”
“Don’t stop antifa!“
sense with a light euphoria that today the center is ours,
watch as a comrade turns over a metal barricade next to the entrance to the FSB,
watch as he’s attacked by a policeman, watch as those near him pull the policeman off, keep walking down Kuznetsky,
wonder why everyone seems so relaxed
today, reach Tverskaya, all thirty of you,
and block one half of it to traffic before, finally sensing a cop car behind you,
scattering next to Okhotny Ryad,
keep in mind that this is not in the end a panacea,
it’s not even really medicine,
this is a political act and nothing more,
so if you have a problem then after a while
you’ll still have to figure out how to solve your problem,
but antidepressant won’t help anymore, psychotherapy
won’t help, books and CDs won’t help, nothing that you bury your lives into
thinking that this is the sad but only possible fate for a
free human being
will help.



The wife of an activist who died under strange circumstances,
though more likely than not it was an accident,
says to me that she literally finds herself shaking
from everything that’s going on, the arrests and the interrogations of activists…
I’m sure you know the story of N, she says.
A labor activist, they planted drugs on him, he got five years.
International campaigns have proved useless.
Yes, i said, I know, of course.
So what can we do, she says, what sort of action can we plan,
so that everyone finds out? What should we do?
And I say, we have two choices. Either we patiently build the
labor unions… or we have to do something really ugly,
because no radical art actions are gong to help here,
are going to get through.
And she says, yes, and then what? We commit a terrorist act? That’s the same thing
right now
as sticking your head out of the trench,
and getting it blown off…
And as for labor unions, she says,
I know the labor activists,
they’re wonderful people, but
it’s all
so slow…
How long will it take,
although, it’s true, it’s the only way.
in the end it’s the labor unions
that are the true workshop of communism.
Yes, I say, right now that’s the situation,
no matter what anyone says,
and who knows what the future may bring, but for the moment
the progressive labor activists have a higher political consciousness
than the intellectuals.
than the professors,
it’s just too bad there are so few of them.
But strategically that’s the most important thing.
She says, You’re right, I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to unionize
the supervisors,
they’re too dependent on their private interests…
Night comes on
the cold streams in, streams in, streams in,
and enters
through the gates, through our sleeves
through our skin
enters our blood,
and somewhere in a warm room
on a soft be on white
a pretty young mother
is stroking her little child
sleep sleep sleep my little one
sleep my baby child
sleep sleep don’t listen
to the wind howling
the cars rustling
sleep tighter my little one
gather strength
you’ll need lots of strength
the working class needs brave strong tough fighters
there are difficult times ahead.

(from Kirill Medvedev | It’s No Good)





One Comment

  1. […] Source: Poems of Protest [1] Lola Ridge, Wendy Trevino, William Rowe, Juliana Spahr, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Kir… […]


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