Heat Indices

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems


Sad broken angel

Bombs go off right across the world
from where I live, among a people who
look like me. This is news because
they are not at war — or at least,
not very much — & because they look
just like me. Meanwhile in America
we are blowing up mountains
& burning their black hearts to keep cool.
Meanwhile in America we are setting off
three & a half million pounds of explosives
every day in this undeclared war
against ourselves. This is not news because
it happens every day & is therefore
nothing new; because there is no easy-
to-tar enemy except perhaps for
the black-hearted mountains;
& because the people who die from it
die slowly & unspectacularly,
& are too often guilty of being poor.
Meanwhile in America it is hot
& getting hotter, & this is news
because it keeps us indoors, glued
to the news or at least to the sweat-
sticky couch. Meanwhile in America
the news anchors make a show
of indignation at the sun, righteous
& well-coiffed as fallen angels, &
never speculate about why we might
really be so hot, never mention
that we are blowing up mountains
& burning their black hearts to keep cool.


Note: I don’t mean to minimize the horror of the events in Norway, which now seem actually to be more about the massacre on the island than the initial bomb blasts. Every violent death, especially the death of a child, is a tragedy regardless of where in the world it happens — even schoolchildren in Appalachia who get brain tumors from having the misfortune of living too close to coal processing plants.

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25 Replies to “Heat Indices”

  1. I think it was the deliberation of the Kindermord that made it news, for me. And I’d always located Norway outside of the real world: it was the home I would go home to when everything else was ruined. But of course I’ll never go to Norway, and no place is outside.

  2. We continue to evolve toward extinction. It does appear to be a marked trait in the human race (socially, if not individually, that is).
    What a picture you paint for us, Dave. Sadly – painted with the brush of truth.

  3. Thanks, all, for the kind words and responses. This is not one of my personal favorites — I’m just not crazy about either the overall lack of subtlety or the ending — but I’m glad it struck a chord with so many of you. And I do hope you’ll also read Luisa’s latest poem, which is at least twice as good as this!

  4. I love this poem. Not only do we get this juxtaposition of two horrors, which inspired a fine newly minted poem by Albert, but there is this line about the happy Cassandra’s of the weather airways who have been almost gleeful about each new prediction. “righteous
    & well-coiffed as fallen angels,” Perfect! Thank you Dave.

        1. Hey, I grew up on metal too (don’t know if you saw my recent “Maiden & Priest” post) but fell in love with punk/hc in high school.

          1. Yeah, I was gonna comment, but I was so appalled that you’d leave metal just as it was starting to get good, that I couldn’t think of anything to say. :) I mean, yes, Maiden and Priest still sound good, but so do Sepultura, Slayer, Pantera, Vio-lence, Entombed, Morbid Angel…

  5. We could always start a band, should the poetry thing stop working for any of us. We just need 3 chords, right–we’ve got the truth in Dave’s poem. Maybe we don’t even need 3 chords–wasn’t it Woody Guthrie who said that anyone who needed more than 2 chords was showing off?

    How hard can it be to learn 2 chords? I have guitars–and mandolins. A punk band with mandolins and a dulcimer–which fits the strip mining theme nicely too!

    1. Agreed about the two chords (and the cousinship of true folk and punk rock), but don’t kid yourself — that bluegrass stuff is tricky! I know several banjo players we might be able to recruit, however. I’ve always sort of fantasized about an all-banjo punk band.

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