2017 Gulf Coast Prize in Poetry: The Weather Underground

sam sax

The Weather Underground

what was it that drove the weather
underground underground?
what was the switch that flipped back
their hair to show twelve foreheads
crowned with coming bullets?
was it the times, was it the tyrants,
was it the man murdered in his bed 
beside his wife, was it the price of food,
the burning rubber forests, the boys
sent across the world to die?
or was it more like the steady rise
in sea level? a slowly radicalizing shoreline
the water that comes regardless 
of how you build your life raft
from what rhetoric according 
to whose religion. arguments over ethics
& tactics braid up into the same 
conservative hairdo unless of course
there's a knife to the neck. it's amazing
what a well planted comma can do.
a well placed bomb will change 
the meaning of a bus line, a dumpster
fire, police response time, polity, polite
society. the king must always be terrified.
tell me what it is exactly that would 
cause you to worm into the dirt
& rise with the flood in order to help
your countrymen breathe. whose hunger
is worthy of your riot today? what does
it take to break civility into actual ass bread?
in college we began to prepare for
the coming devastation, it was always kind
of a joke, still we learned the basics
of farming dead soil, ate each other's semen,
argued over the aquisition of firearms, 
built little utopias from our books' imaginations.
apocalypse is too greek a word for 
the burning river to come, for the cache 
of stolen hair, the camps that have been
& will again spring from the dirt 
like rotting turnips. apocalypse means
a veil lifting. the wool from the eyes.
cowardice opening its curtains. comfort 
into landmines. it's seventy degrees in february.
my family is under surveilance. the king
must die.