A New Declaration of Independence
We are only asking them to leave, quietly and without making a fuss—
these men, here and elsewhere, who refuse their assent to laws
the most wholesome and necessary for the public good;
who make new laws about what we may or may not do with our bodies and our votes
but refuse any rules about what they may do;
who hide behind plastic shields and make us weep in the public streets;
who bring their guns into our churches and synagogues and mosques;
who under cover of darkness dump their coal ash and mercury and lead into our waters;
who argue without end that there is not enough money in any budget
for wages that would cover the rent with some left over
for a pomegranate or a bunch of the bright tulips in buckets by the check-out lanes;
who at last repair our leaking pipes and then raise the rent
so we must find a new apartment with the same loose tiles in the bathroom;
who quarter large bodies of armed troops among us
and spend our money on walls that separate butterfly from butterfly
without care for the swallowtails, satyrs, emperors, leafwings and brushfoots
that have always flown freely according to their inborn migration routes;
who spend our money to construct walls that separate parent from child
and lose even the memory of where each has been held
while we still need to rebuild our rusty bridges;
who send our children to distant lands
without telling them why, or teaching them the words to explain why
they must explode a bridge that others labored to build
so they could greet their neighbors across the river.
We could keep going—the list of offenses is long and growing longer.
But isn’t this enough?
We ask them just to leave, and to close the door behind them.
Susanna Lang’s newest collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published in 2017 by Terrapin Books. Other collections include Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013) and Even Now (Backwaters Press, 2008), as well as Words in Stone, a translation of Yves Bonnefoy’s poetry (University of Massachusetts Press, 1976). A two-time Hambidge Fellow and recipient of the Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Bethesda Writer’s Center, she has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, december, Verse Daily and American Life in Poetry. She lives and teaches in Chicago.