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Phillip Lopate
Phillip Lopate
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943, Philip Lopate received a Bachelor's...
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Allende

 
by Phillip Lopate

In 200 years they won't remember me, Salvador
And they won't remember you, so let's skip the part about
He will live with us forever.
You may get a footnote for being the only Marxist
To gain power in Latin America via parliamentary means;
And the only sucker not to throw his enemies in jail.
You knew the power of the large land-owners, ITT,
The Army, U.S. Anaconda, the small frightened businessmen
Easily manipulated, the shop-owners who could go either way
And yet you didn't lift a finger to silence them.
You continued to defend the bicameral system of government
Until they bombed your palace and you shot yourself in the mouth.
Answer me this,
Now that you are a bunch of hairs on a blood-stained sofa:
I want to know why you killed yourself.
Because this was a very un-Marxist thing to do.
Because neither was this the way of a gradualist
With short graying hair and glasses,
     and a face like a prominent surgeon's,
Who, knowing this would happen, could have easily arranged for
The secret tunnel, the private plane, the unmarked car
In which you, huddled in grandmotherly wig, might begin
To write your memoirs. Was it too horrible to think of
Speaking at New York rallies to pockets of émigrés,
Forming shadow cabinets, and lunching with Juan Bosch
Or Andreas Papandreou, swapping stories over wine about
Where you were when the shit hit the fan?
I'm being vulgar, forgive me.
I would rather believe in your doggish retreat
Than the flamboyance of today's headlines which gloat:
MARXIST REPORTED TO TAKE HIS LIFE.
Even they are a little unsure. They leave room
     for the graduate students
Of the left, working in the carrels of libraries
For 100 years to discover the link,
The way it all fits together: Lumumba, King, Kennedy,
     Allende, CIA.

And it may turn out that my government actually murdered you
But what's the good of knowing that?
We know too many connections already, and they only satisfy
The pedantic urge that makes the world a crossword puzzle.
Salvador, I'm sorry, I don't know what to say any more.
Take back the bullet, it was a mistake, it redeems nothing.

Today I look at the faces of passers-by and I think:
It figures. The banks have the money to buy counter-
revolution,
This wino has no money. He's nice enough, so is
That girl in the flamingo summer dress on wobbly heels.
It's September 12, possibly the prettiest day of the year.
The blue has never been so pure around the chimneys—
"Almost like—a cartoon!" says the dental hygienist,
Grasping for a metaphor. I never said it even to myself,
Before today, but just between you and me,
And I don't want anyone else to hear: Senor.
It looks as if they have got us by the balls.
These faces in the street, how can they take power?
How can they rule?






From At the End of the Day: Selected Poems and an Introductory Essay, copyright 2009 by Phillip Lopate. Used by permission of Marsh Hawk Press.
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