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No Time Like the Present 

 

You who believe in the false
  assurances of schedules, the presumptions
  of plans, or the promised future
  of appointments -- I have news
  for you.

                Today I have nowhere
  to go and nothing to do
  but watch the Mediterranean Sea
  from a seaside table in Menton.
Nobody knows me here.
The couples dancing tangos
  in the public square regard me
  as the foreigner I am.

                                         I order
  lunch in unimpressive French
  and sign language.

                                    The world
  that pressured me at home
  with phone calls, obligations, bills
  and headlines carries on,
  but I'm not playing.

                                    Instead
  I focus on the green and red
  confusion of a Nicoise salad
  while I hurt for an America
  I barely recognize.

                                    In the name
  of Christ we're Arabizing Arabs
  as we once Vietnamized the South
  Vietnamese before our vanity
  consumed us.

                                We've sponsored free
  elections but reversed results.
To launch the neo-century
  we crushed a country and destroyed
  a culture.

                         Though someone warned
that occupiers lose at last,
the warning was ignored.

                                          When scholars
  wrote that Athens at its peak
  sailed fleets to ultimate catastrophe
  in Sicily and bled for decades
  afterward in consequence,
  they reaped the glory of derision.
Why bother talking history
  with those whose only purpose
  is deceit?

                        Why reason with unreason?
When shouters violate what's sacred
  with impunity, the only answer
  is dissent.

                        Hiding behind
  lapel-pin flags, they've fouled
  what I thought would be a holiday
  abroad, not merely a reprieve
  before the next resistance.
I've met them all a thousand
  times whenever fear and cowardice
  demanded loyalty to causes
  that were never mine.

                                Since power
  is their word for peace, they swagger
  like competitors who can't not win.
And when they lose, as they
  will always lose, they'll claim
  they could have won with more
  support, and then they'll whine.

--Samuel Hazo

Samuel Hazo is founder and director of the International Poetry Forum.
He is McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Duquesne University. His most recent books of poetry include A Flight to Elsewhere and Just Once, from Autumn House Press. He lives in Upper St. Clair. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on independent radio, WYEP 91.3 FM.

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