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U.S.A. I



Pobre México, tan lejos de Dios,

tan cerca de los Estados Unidos,

dijo Porfirio Díaz

hace un siglo, antes de

los aviones, los proyectiles, los satélites,

los pesticidas, las multinacionales.

Ahora cada nación, aldea,

tribu, pájaro y árbol sobre la tierra

puede compartir esos sentimientos...

hasta la vida sensible de marte

y de la luna terrestre.



Poor Mexico, so far from God,

so near the United States,

said Porfirio Díaz

a century ago, before

planes, missiles, satellites,

pesticides, multinationals.

Now every nation, every village,

tribe, bird, and tree on earth

can share those sentiments...

even sentient life on Mars

and the Earth’s moon.


Los rojos granos blancos


Los rojos granos blancos

El soldado americano

era más alto,

y blanco,

y tenía a Dios de su lado.

El japonés era delgado como un carrizo,

oscuro como sus tristes designios.

Contenía todas las sombras

y sorpresas

de su pueblo traicionero,

de su ruin imperio.

El americano,

casi un niño,

temía por su vida,

pero era valiente,

un patriota decidido a

liberar al mundo de su maldad,

hacerlo seguro para los amantes de la libertad.

Mató al japonés

y saqueó su cuerpo

en busca de su credencial.

Con el nombre, encontró una foto

y, a través de la guerra,

y, a través de los años,

pensó en ampliar

el rostro del muchacho

para mandárselo a sus padres,

para que supieran,

sin los sangrientos detalles,

del coraje de su hijo,

de su sacrificio.

Aquel día en Borneo,

en el cuerpo del japonés encontró

un paquete

y, muerto de hambre,

saboreó cada grano de arroz.

No mandó la foto,

conserva la credencial,

y aún hoy,

después de tantos años,

no puede comer arroz,

pues cada grano blanco

está rociado

de rojo.

The Red White Grains


The American soldier was taller,

and white,

and had God on his side.

The Jap was thin as a reed,

dark as his murky designs.

He held all the shadows

and jungle surprises

of his treacherous people,

of his sneaky Empire.

The American,

just barely a man,

was afraid for his life,

but he was courageous,

a patriot who wanted

to rid the world of its evil,

make it safe for lovers of freedom.

He shot the young Jap,

then rifled his body

in search of I.D.

With the name came a picture,

and, all through the war, and,

all through the years,

he thought of enlarging

the face of that boy

to send to his parents,

so they would know,

without gory details,

of their son's courage,

of his sacrifice.

That day in Burma,

on the Jap's body he found

a packet,

and, full of hunger,

relished each white grain of rice.

He did not send the picture,

holds on to the I.D.,

and, still today,

after all these years,

he cannot eat rice,

for each white grain

is sprinkled

with red.

Dragon Heads i

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.  - Revelation 12

Abdul, you are right,

your dictator and my dictator,

everybody’s dictator,

they’re all nihilists.

They rape and kill,

torture, pillage, imprison, silence.

They murder the soul

because they don’t know they have one.

They destroy our civilization

because they are the children of Chaos.

They stomp on our humanity

because they don’t feel human.

Your dictator claimed he was afraid to kill sparrows.

Mine had a fun-filled childhood stuffing frogs with fireworks,

blowing them up over proud Texas skies.

Your dictator’s smiling picture is in the coffeehouse,

the brothel, the marketplace.

My dictator has a stupid smirk.

Our cartoonists (ii) have immortalized him

with huge floppy ears, small beady eyes, a tiny body,

and silly cockroach legs stuffed in high-heeled Texas boots,

dressed as a twelve-year-old playing Napoleon,

Superman, a monarch with tattered crown,

a pawn on a chess board where Cheney is king,

the bride of the Religious Right,

a pouting, child-like president unable to reach the floor,

standing on a pile of books on top of a chair,

handing out medals, stuttering his moronic

we don’t torture it’s only enhanced interrogation.

Now, really, Abdul, do you think those pictures

could hang over every bed in the brothel,

especially in The Emperor’s Club

and other Washington establishments

that cater to senators,

governors, foreign dignitaries?

The customers would laugh so hard

they would pee in their Fruit of the Looms,

and the poor whores would be all out of business.

Your dictator banned the solar calendar,

abolished Amado, Neruda, Marquez.

My dictator doesn’t read, has never heard of Neruda.

His wife is a librarian, who,

in her first year in the president’s house,

invited a few poets for culture and tea.

When she heard they were planning to talk

about war and death, torture and freedom,

she said, no, no, no, you naughty boys,

we won’t have any of that.

It’s true we invaded two countries,

but it’s for their own good.

We’re teaching those poor souls

about malls and Sunday shopping,

and letting us have all that oil they don’t need.

Your dictator has given his name

to the squares, rivers, and jails of his homeland.

Mine wants his on, can you believe it, a library.

He would also like to have it on a Washington monument,

Mount Rushmore, and the silver dollar.

If he’s lucky, they may rename Guantánamo after him,

create the Bushit Institute for Pseudo-Science,

and call waterboarding the Bushnique.

Your dictator burned the last soothsayer

who failed to kneel before the idol.

They do that. They burn, fire, demonize,

and do extraordinary renditions.

They abu ghraib.

They guantánamo.

Your dictator has doled out death as a gift or a pledge.

Mine doles out destruction to avenge his father’s honor

(in truth, to show his mother he’s more macho than the old man)

and for reassurance that he is “The Commander Guy.”

Your dictator’s watchdogs have stolen the people’s food.

My dictator, his cronies, lobbyists, and Geppettos

have stolen the fruits without pesticides,

the fish without mercury,

the beef without additives,

the shade of the trees,

the waters of the rivers,

the breezes of the morning.

Your deposed dictator was executed at home

because mine decided he should be.

The hourglass restarts counting the breaths

of the dictators lurking everywhere

in the fund-raising party and the Supreme Court,

in the Senate and the brothel, or are they the same?



From the Caribbean to China’s Great Wall,

the dictator-dragon is born every day.

i Answer to “Dragon” by Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati

ii See Nick Anderson’s and Mike Luckovich’s Editorial Cartoons in The Cartoonist Group,

Dragon / Los rojos
The Red White Grains
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