Online Edition: Winter 2004

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March 18, 2003

Michael Lally

Libellum ($10)

by Larry Sawyer

Michael Lally's March 18, 2003 is at once as simple and commonplace as a handshake and as complex and varied as a hypothetical dissection of the strata that might compose the geological terrain of some distant planet. The poem is titled thus because it was first read on March 18, 2003 at a Poets Against the War reading at the Paula Cooper Gallery in NYC. Other featured readers that night included Ann Lauterbach, Anne Waldman, Robert Creeley, and former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

Each successive line of this single long poem hypnotically speaks what nearly seems the reader's own subconscious roiling. With wonderful cover art by Alex Katz, the kaleidoscope of thought and emotion that struck all after the events of September 11, 2001, has been chiseled here in a profound stone as Lally elaborates upon the changed world in which we find ourselves.

Lally compellingly breathes new life into the unanswered questions that have yet to be sufficiently addressed by a news media that has ignored "news." Every so often, however, the real questions are interspersed with intentionally inane questions such as "who's going to win the award for best actor?" This technique underscores the gravity of the situation at hand and reinforces the relevance of the topics addressed by this important work. In this information age, the poem asks, what is really true?

Is it true even Newt thinks this attack on Iraq is ill conceived?

...............................................................

Isn't it as though the American Revolution
has been reversed without a fight?
Has the vast right-wing conspiracy triumphed
at last—with an almost complete takeoverv by an alcoholic spoiled brat with
a right-wing Christian fundamentalist makeover?

The mantra of questions begins with the lines

I don't have any answers,
just some questions:

As the poem progresses, however, it does indeed seem as though the very act of asking these supremely relevant questions is enough, because the questions asked by this poem are the questions that failed us all in the lead up to the present, ongoing, war in Iraq. Better for us to keep reading and ponder the questions that should have been asked long ago.

Don't the links between the CIA and
drug smuggling date back to its beginnings?

...............................................................

Are we obsessed with the denial of that reality?

...............................................................

Did you know that the company that makes
the new computerized voting machines
that defied the exit polls and put right-wing
Republicans in power where they weren't before
are owned by the right-wing Republican Senator
who did just that in Nebraska, where
according to the results even a majority of blacks
who said they voted against him were obviously wrong
and did the opposite according to his computers?

March 18, 2003 delineates the reasons that we are involved in the morass that so many are ignoring. While it's true that collectively Americans, and the world, were stunned after the tragic events of September 11, Republican talking heads have gleefully reiterated ad nauseam why our civic duty involves ridding the world of evil via a method that has never before been so necessary—the preemptive strike. That this concept violates the very tenets that prophets of every major world religion espouse—Muslim and Christian alike—leads the reader to a very real and very necessary conclusion: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Our choice is to collectively endorse madness and misguided politicos or

to create, as Che once said, a world
where love is more possible?

..................................................

Can't we all just get along?

Lally is riffing at the psychological anti-center of contemporary American consciousness, a very particular consciousness that is fed up and bursting over with the voices that have been far too silent. He has his finger on our pulse and doesn't let up. The prognosis is debatable; the entire poem builds to a crescendo and is over with before the reader has decided what to make of all these questions. One thing is certain, however—the time is now as it never was before. Lally dismantles the Bush dynasty and this American malady in such a subtle way by merely giving voice to what everyone has been thinking. Along the way he asks, what has happened to our voices?

Is it all about blame?
We're all alive and depend on the ocean and trees,
and the air they give us to breathe—so what are we doing?

...........................................................................

You call this a poem?

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Winter 2004 Table of Contents