Thursday, January 28, 2010

Marvin Bell Reads his poem

In honor of the one year anniversary of the inauguration and in anticipation of the publication of the Starting Today anthology, I will be reposting some of the poems along with links to MP3s of the poets reading their poems.


Marvin Bell reads his poem from day 51.

Or click here for a link to the MP3.

The Book of the Dead Man (Day 51)

                              Live as if you were already dead.
                                             Zen admonition

1. About the Dead Man and Day 51

It is Day One of the second half of the first one hundred days of a new president,
          and the Dead Man is counting.
The dead man tabulates the war dead this good president cannot restore to life.
He counts up the pins in the map where alliances must be reborn.
This dead man is not the writer of Ulysses paring his fingernails in the
The dead man would go if called, he would enter the Halls of Congress without
          disturbing the decay on either side.
He would slide inside with the care of a porcelain potter, hoping to raise up an
          aggregate of minorities.
He would sidestep the partisan princes of darkness and the merchants of war.
For the dead man carries his bifocals like Diogenes his lantern.
It could be Woden’s day or Mercury’s, the Quaker Fourth Day, Ash Wednesday
          or Spy Wednesday when the dead man shows up.
The dead man fancies midweek, Hump Day at its crest.
It is Wednesday, when the way upward and the way downward are the same
It is March 11, 2009, the fifty-first day of something good to chew on.

2. More About the Dead Man and Day 51

The dead man has been newly roused by a president of many colors.
There has been a worldwide lifting of downcast eyes for good reason.
The fog has lifted that hid the systemic violations of law, and the dead man feels
          the ground shifting.
Now the indigent can hope for more than weeping.
For America was ambushed by the vile and the wicked.
Quickly, it was midnight in America, and the chuckle-heads were in charge.
The dead man is all for locking bracelets on the guilty.
Let the naysayers wriggle, let the hefty lobbyists go on a diet.
An age of chess and steak has become a time of checkers and soup.
The dead man waits for his nation to heal the sick and teach the young.
He welcomes home the armies that were the playthings of a presidency he is
          well rid of.
He carries the poor to the clinic, and reopens the laboratories.
His is the hope a young president released.
This president’s accomplishments will not be cheapened by the barking of the
          far right.
Check back with the dead man in four years.
For after eight years without a past or future, after the infamy of the de facto,
          the dead man may not soon lower his fist.
The dead man is constructing a runway for the perps.

Marvin Bell's Mars Being Red appeared in 2007. His latest book is a collaboration, 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book, co-authored with the poets István László Géher (Hungary), Ksenia Golubovich (Russia), Simone Inguanez (Malta), Christopher Merrill, Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia), and Dean Young. His two sons are, among other things, a country music singer-songwriter with a strong sociopolitical bent, and a trained ninja who helped guard the Dalai Lama in New York City. He lives in Iowa City, IA and in Port Townsend, WA.

CLICK HERE for an MP3.


  1. Very moving poem. Some of the authors' readings are a little flat, but I felt like I got more out of the author's reading than my reading the poem myself. Thank you.

  2. Some good writing done with this piece. I agree with the other gentleman that the tone is flat, but i took that as a way to set the mood for the poem. Great job and keep writing material for us to enjoy