Margaret Randall Poems
When Multiple Choice Replaced Socratic Wisdom*
Future historians may dispute the moment
democracy split its seams,
too many rotten threads in the weave,
too much greed.
Some will blame money, millions or billions
for prime-time ads
launched as entertainment cum news:
fake or alternate: who knew the difference?
Others will say our elected representatives
forgot the promises they made
to us and our children and grandchildren,
busy as they were with sleight of hand.
Many will point to the moment we stopped
learning how to think for ourselves,
when multiple choice
replaced Socratic wisdom.
Few will notice it’s the small things
completed our journey:
same price for a jar or carton containing less,
invented cures for invented diseases.
Our own eyes pretend they do not see
the man holding desperation’s sign,
laced with built in lies
like the day we accepted embedded reporters
telling our far away stories
presented as alternative fact.
We no longer know the difference.
Most won’t remember a time before.
Most will wander this nation,
muted citizens as far as the eye can see,
oblivious and sorrowful
because remembering depends on
truthful words, trusted bridges
from dream to reality, thought to action,
words that say what they mean.
When Good Scientists Silenced Fake News
In 500 BCE Pythagoras figured out
the earth was round.
Aristotle backed him up 150 years later.
The sun rises each morning as it always has
on this planet that orbits its mass
since Galileo gave us the news one day in 1610.
It had always been so, but alternative facts
confused our minds
until the good scientists silenced fake news.
Although some were made to recant,
sanity finally prevailed
in a future they wouldn’t live to see.
Some truths bear up beneath the daily barrage
of lies and breast-beating tweets,
others require we fight harder for their claims.
A troubled ridge of clouds blankets my mountains this morning:
between gentle and ominous, deception unraveling normal
in these times.
A hopeful young scientist proposes installing a giant fan
where it can blow frigid air off the North Pole
causing the ice cap to thicken,
thus preventing a rising of oceans swallowing nations
and the needs of those whose fans are woven
of palm and ordinary dream.
Five hundred billion is the estimated cost for something
that may or may not work, and we all know
what estimated means.
Of course we could decide to lower earth’s temperature
by reducing our consumption of fossil fuel
but that would cut into profits
and how then would we pay for the fan? The trouble
with poets, they say, is we fail to understand
how complicated everything is,
busy as we are contemplating a surprise bank of clouds
and putting two and two together
in benevolent morning light.
*“When Multiple Choice Replaced Socratic Wisdom” will be included in a new collection of Margaret Randall’s work from Wings Press in September 2017 entitled THE MORNING AFTER: POETRY AND PROSE FROM THE POST-TRUTH ERA.
Margaret Randall (New York, 1936) is a poet, essayist, oral historian, translator, photographer, and social activist. She lived in Latin America for 23 years in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua. From 1962 to 1969 she and Mexican poet Sergio Mondragón co-edited EL CORNO EMPLUMADO / THE PLUMED HORN, a bilingual literary quarterly that published some of the best new work of the ’60s.
When she came home in 1984, the government ordered her deported because it found some of her writing to be “against the good order and happiness of the United States.” With the support of many writers and others, she won her case in 1989.
Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, she taught at several universities, most often Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Randall’s most recent titles include MY TOWN, AS IF THE EMPTY CHAIR / COMO SI LA SILLA VACIA, THE RHIZOME AS A FIELD OF BROKEN BONES and DAUGHTER OF LADY JAGUAR SHARK (all poetry, all from Wings Press, San Antonio), CHE ON MY MIND (a feminist poet’s reminiscence of Che Guevara, published by Duke University Press), and MORE THAN THINGS (essays, from The University of Nebraska Press). Her latest collection of poems, ABOUT LITTLE CHARLIE LINDBERGH, appeared from Wings in summer 2014. HAYDEE SANTAMARIA, CUBAN REVOLUTIONARY: SHE LED BY TRANSGRESSION, is recently out from Duke (August, 2015). Her most recent collection of poems (June 2016) is SHE BECOMES TIME. A large bilingual anthology of Cuban poetry, ONLY THE ROAD / SOLO EL CAMINO, came out in October. Randall lives in New Mexico with her wife of almost 30 years, the painter Barbara Byers, and travels extensively to read, lecture and teach.