Posting an old poem on the eve of war

I was going to post this without comment tomorrow for September 11, but I’ve been overwhelmed by the news tonight, so I’ve moved it up. I don’t think I can process where I’m at on this new war right now, but this is a close approximation. Deja fucking vu.


The Day Bin Laden Died

I have never been able to write a poem about
September 11, 2001, a day remembered
more than any other in my 8th grade year.
I’ve tried to join the body of American work
representing how scared and pissed off we were,
but the words failed me, too short breathed
from the suckerpunch we suffered. Every attempt
at a 9/11 poem is a blur, just like every poem
or song or essay or speech – a bunch of
fancy words and chanting bullshit – has been
a blur to me. But that day never has been.
And now, Osama Bin Laden is dead, shot twice
by a Navy SEAL in a military operation
that my mind wants to questions but my gut
wants to vomit relief. And kids my age took
to the streets in celebration of a death.
The death of the boogeyman of the younger
generation, the news said, the boogeyman
of my generation. And somebody stronger
and smarter than me went into my closet
in a Pakistani city and took care of that
son of a bitch once and for all. I watched
the celebration around me as I walked
home from work, and I remember all the times
I’ve taken my shoes off to get on an airplane.
I remember dozens of prisoners tortured
in Guantanamo Bay because they hail from
the same country as Osama Bin laden.
I hail from the same country as George Ryan,
Jim Jones, and Ted Kaczynski, you should take
me to jail, too. But most of all, I remember
the number of times I’ve been called a traitor
because I try to be a pacifist. Try, and often fail.
And I can’t help but wonder if he’s already won.

by James Patrick Schmidt

National Poetry Month 2014: Call When You Get In

Call When You Get In

Jai alai ball sized hail slams
against the tattered sheet in the hall,
making a sound somewhere between
eyelids and shoulders
sopping up blood from the stairs.
Perhaps if the door weren’t open
and the windows weren’t smashed,
tangerines might have survived zealous
relocation among the emotions and books
inside my overnight bag. Conditions
change like the colder autumns of childhood,
killing the grass still green between the sidewalks.

Misunderstood calls for help were actually
offers to intercept self-actualizing destruction
through back-channel negotiations
hosted by coping mechanisms
everyone but me was born with, or at least
rented from their therapists.
Funny, I thought enlightenment meant
understanding the hokey-pokey,
captured in shaky revolutions
known to picket wedding dance floors,
immortalized in the dusty videos
neglected once the first anniversary
gifts are exchanged with freezer-burned cake.

Still images are the only calm
cast on the hallway walls,
half covered in bemused shame
made into shadow puppets
illuminated by the lone light bulb, reflecting
demons committed to escaping
the eager note on my door.

by James Patrick Schmidt