Famous Last Words (videopoem)


Watch on Vimeo.

Text:
We are not vessels of fired clay
but ice. One glance reveals
the odd fragments of earth—
a brown leaf, a silkworm’s thumb-
sized mummy—waiting for spring’s
indiscriminate knife. We are
not hawks, we desert people,
but kites—the kind that can’t fly
without a string. Our words
are singular & fragile as uranium
in the only universe we know.
Soon we will have spoken, typed
or penned the last one. It will be
our birthday, as it always is.
The rabble will rubble the palace,
waving charred copies of
our once-green book.
The tent in the garden will flap
like a mutilated wing.

12 Comments


  1. Stones against tanks! I ask you! And in Libya of all places, where past insurrections have been so brutally suppressed. Who’d have thought that rage and stones could halt the weapons of war.

    I love the juxtaposition of images in this, and your words … and voice… as always, move me. The last two lines are particularly haunting, though the mental picture that sticks is that conjured by

    ‘a silkworm’s thumb-
    sized mummy – waiting for spring’s
    indiscriminate knife.’

    That is just delicious!

    Reply

  2. This is terrific – so powerful. The juxtaposition with poetry and with the peaceful, lone bird in the snow gives the news footage back the power it perhaps once had before we sadly became inured by habitual viewing.

    Reply

    1. Thank you, Jean. As always, I wasn’t quite sure whether this video worked, so I’m glad to hear from some of the people whose aesthetic judgements I most trust.

      Reply

    1. Thanks, all! I’m very heartened you guys liked this so well.

      I stole the news footage from Reuters, but I believe this kind of re-use is permitted for news broadcasts under Fair Use. After all, the Daily Show does it every night. But I need to research that before I do too many more like this.

      Reply

  3. I find the poem especially au courant with the “people power” rebellions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Iran, Bahrain dominating the airwaves.

    “We are not hawks…but kites the kind that can’t fly without strings.” Apres le deluge? Will the tent in the garden “flap like a mutilated wing?” The poem pleads for a rationale—not an indiscrimate knife. Great engaged poetry.

    (I heard some of those poems in Egypt.
    They could profit from this poem’s insight.) Bravo, Dave.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Albert. I confess I’ve never read a translation of Gaddafi’s Little Green Book, but I understand he’s quite given to pseudo-wise pronouncements, and sees himself as simultaneously a philosopher-king and a voice of the people, so I was sort of trying to evoke that here.

      Reply

  4. A series of riveting images. Here’s my favorite, perhaps unforgettable:

    . . . . We are
    not hawks, we desert people,
    but kites—the kind that can’t fly
    without a string.

    I have new ways to look at flying now.

    Reply

    1. Glad you liked that. Of course, I had to clarify in part for the benefit of birders, who’d otherwise assume I was talking about the avian kind of kite. But what is jet fuel but a kind of kite string?

      Reply

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