When Mouths Say No

When Mouths Say No

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 by George Kalamaras


Was Jack Spicer a refugee? Was Thoreau?

One man cast into the expanse of Martians,

the other thrown from the woods of his own


heart into the swampy dark of possum scent

and skunk. The owl is whirring through the chests

of every child who crosses the border of here to


nowhere. Of nowhere to there. To certainly not

here. Not in my state, proclaims the Governor

of the United States of Goodliness. Let Greece


or some other cradle of possibility

take in all the bad-as-it-can-get. If we step from

the easily said into the way words could


and would but won’t. If we go to the woods

to grieve deliberately, to front only

the essential facts of dearth. A mother moves


from Sudan, from Rwanda, toward mouse bone

cracking in the wind’s wind. We are all buffeted back

by our buffeting back? We retreat into pond scum


of sassafras hollow, stagnant and sad,

as we rush to guard the well? One man

spoke to Martians, was banished


to a Tennessee still. The other said no to war

taxes, and before jail only the woods would take him

in. What if you lost your home to dragon smoke


and screech? Your family cast into splinter-shunt

and shake? Not in my mouth, reiterates the Governor

of Good. Syrian airstrikes, then airdropped


powdered milk. Lentils and rice. Fruit leather, salt.

Let some other home of Democracy, he says, hold

the democratically poor. Not in my mouth. Not in yours.

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