Poem for Display Above the Urinals in a Men’s Restroom

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Public Poems


Eyes front, soldier.
The general looks hard for signs
of deviation.

Don’t show too much interest
even in this poem,
which is probably gay.

There were trees here once
where you stand relieving yourself
against a hollow trunk.

They would not have known
what to do
with so much saltpeter.

Note: Saltpeter, or potassium nitrate — a critical component of gunpowder — readily precipitates out of urine.

Poem for Display in a Vacant Lot

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series Public Poems


The concrete dreams
of bindweed & beggar-tick,
burdock & wineberry,
gravid mosquito mothers,
copperheads, a wild rose
equipped with grappling hooks.

The concrete wants to be loved,
not merely walked upon.
It wants to go home with you,
clinging to your pants leg,
or at least take a bite
your skin will remember.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The concrete was our gift
to an unimproved land
where woods & weeds ran riot.
At best, we might condescend
to preserve some open space,

a light-green stripe across the grid.
But the pavement, too,
begins to bulge open.
There are no motels in this vacancy.
The flag of our alienation
goes down to kudzu.

Poem for Display in a Shopping Mall Food Court

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series Public Poems


No porridge here!
Everything is always
just right.
Times & temperatures are set
by central decree.
They strain the plankton from the fryers
once a shift.

Here, you have choices.
You can pick a different
transnational brand of transfat
for every course.
You serve yourself — who better? —
in bucket-shaped seats.

Discrimination has no place here;
there’s room for everyone
with six dollars in their wallet.
True, the fixed gap between seat
& table edge may make
hunchbacks of some
& force others to sit sideways,
the prow of a distended gut
catching crumbs in lieu of a tray.
But they’re neither too hard
nor too soft, these seats.
E pluribus unum:
all asses conform
to Formica.

For the Read Write Poem prompt, political poetry. Other responses here.

Poem for Display in a Housing Project

This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Public Poems


Memo to the original planners:
this is what the future
actually looks like.
How do you explain
to yourselves our vagrant,
flagrant refusal to fit
into your uniformed vision?
Or perhaps we fit all too well,
making this project
into an efficient projection
of someone’s self-loathing
onto the cosmos?
For surely these highrises
amount to another Babel.
Some aspect of their conception
disrespected the natural order,
& now they are as hollow
as spent shells.
And just as in scripture,
we barely understand
the lingo of our own
flown children,
who say — we think —
that the prison feels like home,
that it has a yard,
that they might be
a little safer there
from stray