They come from bars and frat houses,
Chins sporting the last chug’s dregs;
They’ve shut down the POTUS block
Down lawn chairs! Time to tap the kegs!

“Na na na! Hey hey hey! Goodbye!”
Caught in the unstoppered ear—
Perspective fails the sloppy street
It’s just one terrorist’s career!

What giant wheels when Brezhnev sent
Red troops into Afghanistan;
House of Saud and CIA,
Tipped shots to Charlie Wilson’s plan.

“Ding dong the wicked bitch is dead”
Oops! Trampled on the Stars & Stripes—
Flag civics fail the sloppy street
But even vengeance needs wet wipes.

World trade center, USS Cole,
The East African embassies:
Leading up to 9/11,
Murder fashioned by degrees.

Says middle-finger myna bird—
Imagination fails slop street
So back to context-free absurd.

London struck on 7/7,
So many perished in Iraq
(The mission somehow redirected
Till the Vulcans doubled back).

“Na na na! Hey hey hey! Goodbye!”
Caught in the unstoppered ear—
Perspective fails the sloppy street
It’s just one terrorist’s career!

The Taliban rump skulks the hills,
Bully Jihad ducks fury-drones;
How many innocents lie still
Where whitewash hides their spartan bones?

“Ding dong the wicked bitch is dead”
Oops! Trampled on the Stars & Stripes—
Flag civics fail the sloppy street
But even vengeance needs wet wipes.

How many of our soldiers lost
To snipers, maimed by IEDs?
How many workers at Ground Zero
Victims of mystery disease?

Says middle-finger myna bird—
Imagination fails slop street;
So back to context-free absurd.

Al Quaeda loosing dogs of war
In faraway Nigeria;
So many dreams of peace dissolved
On fronts some deem inferior.

“Na na na! Hey hey hey! Goodbye!”
Caught in the unstoppered ear—
Perspective fails the sloppy street
It’s just one terrorist’s career!

So much sludge under the bridge
We stand aloof and watch it fail,
Our petulance only revealed
Wherever petrol goes on sale.

“Ding dong the wicked bitch is dead”
Oops! Trampled on the Stars & Stripes—
Flag civics fail the sloppy street
But even vengeance needs wet wipes.

What intrigue in the Cairo polls?
Who’s quaffing from the Arab Spring?
Who’s paused to moon in pampered awe
When princess donned a silly ring?

Says middle-finger myna bird—
Imagination fails slop street
So back to context-free absurd.

How many at the white house gates
Have given half the world a thought?
Seems leisure of vainglory class
Will always find the glory spot.

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UCHE OGBUJI is a founding editor of the TNB Poetry section. He is also co-creator and co-host of the Poetry Voice podcast. His short collection of poems Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a winner of the 2014 Colorado Book Awards. To expand a bit, Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado where he lives with his wife and four children. Uche is a computer engineer (trained in Nigeria and the USA) and entrepreneur whose abiding passion is poetry. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences, have appeared widely. Uche also snowboards, coaches and plays soccer, and trains in American Kenpo. You can catch more of the prolifically fraying strands of his life on his home page, or, heck, even on Twitter.

27 responses to “Party Time Patriots”

  1. Mary Richert says:

    Uche, I have to admit that poetry is often over my head, nonetheless, I appreciate your stepping back from this news and giving us a larger-world perspective. I hope we don’t all look like drunk buffoons. I have never before seen so many people celebrate a death, and I don’t know what to make of it just yet.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Thans Mary. I was actually kinda looking for a topic such as “Poetry -> Bagatelle.” I’d be shy of really calling this poetry, though I did throw in a few devices to burnish the credibility a bit. It’s certainly an essay in verse. It was a strange thing last night when I heard the news of bin Laden’s death, and at first thought “well this is a good thing in terms of the long overdue justice” and then I was immediately beset with thoughts of all the past and future complexities that radiate from this moment. The words came in a torrent.

      I’m sure I’ve been a bit harsh in my verse characterizations. I expect many of those who on the scene were not being buffoonish. But certainly in the feed I saw (ABC news, after I switched from CNN in an attempt to avoid video of the celebrations) I saw a lot of people acting with appalling loutishness. I suppose they were just mugging for the camera, but I think that’s the heart of my reaction–that anyone would think it proper to express themselves that way at just such a time.

  2. Uche, I was struck by this phrase: Perspective fails the sloppy street. How true, and how sad. One can only wonder what today will look like tomorrow.

  3. dwoz says:

    I am on record as considering the removal of OBL as ultimately a good thing. And your point resonates incredibly: Do we recognize that the “good” of this is due to it’s being a closure on a cycle of our own stupidity?

    Do we understand that?

  4. “Perspective fails the sloppy street.” Perspective also failed as obscured by the giant dust cloud that billowed over lower Manhattan nearly a decade ago.

    I remember one tomorrow when a skyline looked suddenly empty, and when it hurt in the deepest and worst possible way to look at that skyline.

    Back then, the reactions of some people to that day made me uncomfortable. Remember Toby Keith? Remember when people who lived in the Midwest were suddenly getting homeland security money to protect carhenge?

    What, on the other hand, is an appropriate reaction?

    The death of this man brought with it a profound sense of catharsis. Perhaps many of the celebrations witnessed were demonstrations of said catharsis, as opposed to celebrations of that man’s death. Who are we to judge which stage of grief is appropriate during what time?

  5. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Will, I,m wiring on a possibly delayed plane so must keep this brief. I remember 9/11. I also remember that day broadcast images of celebrations in Gaza. “Who are we to judge” is it?

  6. dwoz says:

    I do remember 9/11 very vividly…

    but not so much as a moment of indignation at the audacity and cruelty of it, though that was definitely the immediate reaction. It was more a reaction of realizing that events and actions over the course of many years and many places, done in our name, and pretty much entirely without our knowledge, were coming HOME to roost.

    Of course at the time, this sentiment was vilified as being a “blame America first” thing, so you had to be mindful of where you voiced it. But the feeling was more like an innocent losing one’s virginity via a rape, rather than getting sucker-punched.

    We as a nation have very little knowledge or understanding of just how much we’ve meddled in the world’s power structures and other sovereign governments. This doesn’t justify anything, it doesn’t make 9/11 less heinous.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      All very true. And it’s an old, old story. The Lockerbee bombing was ghastly, appalling, heinous, but it was so quickly forgotten that it was retaliation for the just-as-heinous destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes. Does it make me un-American to expect my country not to be impervious from the consequences of its actions? I don’t think the Founding Fathers would have accepted the idea of tyrant America. At the same time, the reality is that America’s success, its diversity, and the overall footprint of its enterprises mean that we’re never going to be able to avoid stacking up some resentments. But let it be that we deal with the world according to the justice of our own principles and a bin Laden figure still emerges. If that happens, it’s a different story altogether, but I also tend to think that an America of that probity would be an America whose citizens are less likely to engage in the sort of display we saw last night.

      • dwoz says:

        In times like this, I like to refer to Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”

        I don’t think the problem lies in American-style capitalism, but rather American-style corporatism. You and I would probably rather saw off an important appendage with a rusty broken spoon and pack it in salt, than we would to directly and egregiously exploit someone in a transaction. But we both probably have money invested in 401(k) accounts that indirectly, twice or thrice or five-times removed, employ torture and rape and other heinous coercions, to bleed profit out of the helpless.

        It’s that anonymous “arms length” thing that permits that atrocity to occur, perhaps?

        I may be a full six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, but I’m probably, blithely unawares, only 4 degrees of separation from a tortured and raped child working in a textile sweatshop in Myannmar.

        I don’t know what the answer is.

  7. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I appreciate the matrix of events that you include in this piece. Nothing is isolated. I do believe our individual responses matter in the context of the whole. It’s been heartening to see how many people have had somber reactions to balance out those who chose a different expression to the news. Wonderful essay-poem, Uche.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I appreciate the kind words, Ronlyn. It’s been a crazy week for me with travel, intense work sessions and such so I’ve developed a bit of distance from all this. I don’t even really know what the latest developments are in the news, if any. As it happened I wrote this verse essay in a fury and I posted it after a lot of editing for content, but not really for tone. If I’d had a chance to cool down first I might have worked at a way to express reasons for my own somberness without putting that population of revelers so fiercely in my sights. But as I said to Will, they really did remind me, rightly or wrongly, of those in Gaza who celebrated on 9/11, and it made me feel as if a circle had merely been closed that would loop us back along the same paths of death and destruction over time, and that’s extremely frustrating. As dwoz says, no easy answers, I guess.

  8. As always, it’s always about context.

    Eloquently, elegantly said, Uche.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Yep. In fact, something I never got to Monday, but when I changed the line to “So back to context-free absurd.” I thought of the recent Beau Sia poem, also written in reaction to current events, in his case the Alexandra Wallace “Damned Asians in my school” tirade. It’s in its way very apropos to my reaction to the mostly young people I saw in those news clips of the revelers.

      From “Asians In The Library Of The World”:

      I don’t want to wonder
      […] if
      there is a conflict
      about the world changing
      that I don’t want to
      because of the face
      I was born with.

      There are so many things
      more important to me.

      I don’t have the time
      to explore the relationship I have
      to what’s around me.

      there are so many
      who think the way I do.

      From what
      I know of America,

      these Asian people
      are not
      supposed to be this way.

      I’m not talking about
      the laws of this country,
      its requirements for citizenship,
      or taxes paid in full.

      I’m talking about
      what I’ve been programmed
      to think family is.

      how manners
      prove native.

      who should decide
      how identity
      must conform.

      For whom
      identity must conform.

      and why
      identity must conform.

      if only these Asians
      would learn

      if only they understood.
      that I’m here, too.

      that I share this place with them.

      that I belong here.

      that the hordes and swarms
      invading the system I’ve learned
      who I am
      as the world changes.

      I’m so afraid I’ll have to fend for myself.

      what I’ve been told
      was mine.

  9. jmblaine says:

    The Union troops were celebrating
    at the surrender of the South
    a General noticed Abe Lincoln
    somberly shaking his head.
    He took Abe to the side.
    “Sir, your troops have fought
    a long hard battle. Rally with them
    & celebrate our victory.”

    “Today, son,” Abe said solemnly, “I mourn for the South.”

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Very apt observation, and a flavor of what a great man Honest Abe was. I do believe you see the traces the great people of the world (Lincoln, King, Gandhi, Mandela, etc.), much diffused, in their succeeding generations. Simon’s essay throws some interesting light into how those words come to us, possibly with some distortion, and can become touchstones for us to evaluate how well we’ve learned their lessons.

      I will say one thing, that I am sympathetic to e.g. the Union troops of your anecdotes, and to folks celebrating VE & VJ day. They were not just celebrating the defeat of an enemy, but also the end of a war, and the chance to return to normalcy. I think what stung me the most about the revelers to whom I reacted is that they couldn’t realistically be celebrating anything like a return to peace or normalcy.

      • jmblaine says:

        I thought about
        my comment a lot
        wondering how
        it might be misconstrued
        I think at the highest
        level of humanity
        you do mourn –
        for what might have been
        that differences couldn’t be ironed
        out peaceably
        that somehow you couldn’t
        make your enemy your friend
        because that’s the above & beyond.

        All great leaders
        call us to
        above & beyond

        no return to normalcy….

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          I think perhaps if anyone misconstrues your comment, they were not using a bit of perspective in considering the Civil war. My general sympathies certainly lie on the Union side, but no side was perfect, and though both sides suffered greatly, the war brought appalling destruction to the South. It was Lincoln’s circumspection before, during and in the aftermath of the war that made it possible for the USA to survive, and that set him apart as one of those great leaders.

          I always read Allen Tate’s great poem “Ode to the Confederate Dead” with some somberness.

          Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
          Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
          Demons out of the earth they will not last.
          Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
          Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
          Lost in that orient of the thick and fast
          You will curse the setting sun.

  10. jmblaine says:

    myna birds
    not our crowd

  11. Joe Daly says:

    context-free absurd

    That sums it up so well, Uche. As I noted in my comment to Simon, I can’t begrudge someone finding catharsis or closure where they can, but at the same time, the rivers of jingoism that have flowed so deeply from this event have somewhat startled me. After all, the satisfaction that we might derive from his death is rooted in the pulverizing agony of the senseless deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, their lives taken and their loved ones facing a lifetime of sadness.

    Yeah, I’m happy as hell that they got him. But I sure don’t feel like smiling.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Bingo. It’s a grim satisfaction at best. Bin Laden was badly damaged goods, and spread misery everywhere, but I would hope his death would be occasion for us to reflect on whether or not we’ve also managed to avoid spreading misery everywhere.

      I detest jingoism and the individual inadequacies it so often represents. See the Beau Sia poem I quoted above for a pretty neat reflection on that in reference to another news story.

  12. Erika Rae says:

    This was so fun and chilling to read, Uche. I’d love to hear it in your voice on audio. Myna birds and wet wipes. Outstanding.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Ha! Yeah, glad I got that off my chest. Tell you what, I’ll recite it to you some day. Actually I should read it out at The Laughing Goat; seems dead on in the Boulder line, doesn’t it? 🙂

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Powerful stuff, though I feel like I need to read it again to appreciate all the thoughts and images here. Loved the musicality of this stanza in particular:

    The Taliban rump skulks the hills,
    Bully Jihad ducks fury-drones;
    How many innocents lie still
    Where whitewash hides their spartan bones?


    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I’m speechless! Thanks for such a kind compliment, Elizabeth. This was the toughest of all my TNB pieces to take the responsibility of posting, and you have helped ease my mind.

  14. “How many at the white house gates
    Have given half the world a thought”

    As the roar dies down on the news and people suddenly become a bit circumspect (some) about what just happened, it’s good to remember, as always, it’s the poets who got there first. I meant to comment on this piece earlier, but later is maybe a better time to draw attention to this perspective I can only hope more people keep. Wonderful words, Uche.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I guess we can trade that thought. I read your Gestapo House piece on the Tarmac yesterday at Columbus airport waiting to fly back to Denver, and wanted to comment but couldn’t figure out the mobile incantations. Thanks for your kinds words; as I told Elizabeth, these comments help put me at ease because it was a surprisingly easy piece for me to write (I guess they call that frenzied inspiration), but a very hard one to commit to posting here.

      You probably understand what I go through as much as anyone. I spend a fair amount of time abroad, and I’m constantly greeted by a narrow view of Americans as unreflective cowboy bulls in the world’s china shop (to make a bit of metaphor salad). I fight against that hard, pointing out that so many Americans with whom I interact are worldly and circumspect. It’s so unfortunate that the various media reinforce a blinkered perception of such a diverse nation.

      Then on the night when all the world was looking in our direction more than at any other time, what did the media do but feed us a steady, lip-smacking stream of the sort of America that leaves the worst impressions. I find it unnecessary and frustrating, considering how much I’ve read and heard from real people after that night that’s so much more sensible in its reaction, and nowhere more so than here on TNB. There are numerous Americans who have given half the world plenty of thought, but I guess we’re just not exciting enough for media coverage.

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