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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 22, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I wrote this poem at The MacDowell Colony after finding myself in a conversation about political art vehemently arguing for something I later realized I don’t necessarily believe in. While I’m primarily interested in artists whose work reflects the times, this poem is trying to figure out what exactly I mean when I say ‘necessary’ or ‘urgent’ poetry and to think through language’s ‘use’ and ‘utility’ in writing and beyond.”
—sam sax

Doctrine

the time for nuance is over
i argue over breakfast
explaining how it’s oft used
to confuse dissent—knife
through my poached egg.
politicized work made all yolky,
easy to consume & forget.
i dab with the toasted bread
agitation & propaganda i rant
is the only just path for artists
gesturing with my utensils
heavenward. i’ve said a lot
of things which in retrospect
would’ve been better
had i kept my mouth shut.
i once said something to a friend
i won’t repeat here
& now she’s no longer my friend.
i'll never forget what her eyes did
as i finished speaking
stones in a bucket.
words have consequences
they’re both material & reveal
the spirit that speaks them.
what i meant over breakfast
is the time’s too urgent for work
that doesn’t have blood in it.
what i meant is insurgency
is our birthright, that nuance
comes from the french meaning
to shade—why another painting
of a lake when there’s so much
rage boiling outside the canvas?
what does it mean i don’t mean
what i say when i say it? i don’t know
what i mean. silence is golden
& gold’s the standard measurement
for capital. the golden rule is do
unto others as you would have them
do unto you. but what when they do
you ugly first as they always
seem to? i finish my coffee &
it’s political whether i want it
to be or not.

Copyright © 2017 by sam sax. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by sam sax. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

sam sax

sam sax

sam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.

by this poet

poem

everyone knows about the woman who fell in love with the bridge
but no one cares how the bridge felt after.

everyone knows about the poet who leapt from the deck of a ship
but not how the boat lifted & bloated in his wake like a white infant
spread over the

poem
in through the eye
 
device adapted from an ice pick
 
the space between the cornea & tear duct tears
 
little incisions along the frontal lobe
 
you open the grapefruit 
 
poem

REASON                /               UNREASON

 

the brain is                 

           an unlit synagogue 

easily charted               

           in dark waters

using machines