Spring 2011 - THE POTOMAC

Two Poems
   Robert Miltner

The John Reed Book Club

Reed and I are passing Zapata his pistolas, Guevara his cigar, Trotsky his typewriter.

They can't do this revolution without us, gringo, Reed says.

I say, But what about the hungry hundreds of thousands waiting for the direction a certain hand will point them?

Paper, he says. Write about it.

As soon as the light turns red, I run across the street to Railway Stationary. On aisle seventeen I find notebooks and pens.

But the checkout lines are long with people buying staples. Everything is two-for-one. Nothing is moving.

Hurry, I say, the revolution is starting.

Reed pokes his head through the doorway and shouts, Consumers of the world unite! Everyone opens their cell phones to text the world.

I walk out the door and join the Maoists in the band bus. We're done with shopping. I load a lead pencil into my rifle. It's going to be a long tour.


Late Capitalism
after a print by Julie Friedman


Time is a pliers pressing night into morning. Open and empty, it looks like a phone, a parenthesis.

Phone lines and power lines form the net holding the industrial dawn as it burns the grey wood of the closed factory red as a country barn.

A hundred men once worked under this corrugated metal roof, running machines that made copper pipe.

As the night shift arrived, the firehouse next door slept uneasy surrounded by a neighborhood constructed of cheap lumber dried to tinder where hopeless exhaustion ignites hope chests with broken hinges.

The sky is smoke, dust, heat, a fogged mirror after a muggy summer storm.

Water streaks like finger painting on the sides of buildings: a world is revealed beyond, behind, like unearthing by hand a lost crypt or buried city.

A dog barks as if it hears horses that used to pull the fire wagon here, wheels as round as rain barrels, red as poppies under the blue-white gas lights.

The transformer's decibel hum sounds like a dial tone from the past. It rings but no one answers.

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