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A Martial Law Carol


Nations learn the rules
like a naughty boy
as the tyrant drools
manacles in joy.
One pen-stroke apiece,
minus edits plus
helping the police
to subtract a class.

From a stubborn brow
something scarlet drops
on the Christmas snow.
As it turns, the globe’s
face gets uglier,
pores becoming cells,
while the planets glare
coldly like ourselves.

Hungry faces. Grime.
Squalor. Unabashed
courts distribute time
to the people crushed
not so much by tanks
or by submachine-
guns as by the banks
we deposit in.

Deeper than the depth
of your thoughts or mine
is the sleep of death
in the Wujek mine;
higher than your rent
is that hand whose craft
keeps the others bent
as if photographed.

Powerless is speech.
Still, it bests a tear
in attempts to reach,
crossing the frontier,
for the heavy hearts
of my Polish friends:
one more trial starts.
One more Christmas ends.

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