SPLIT THIS ROCK: Poems of Provocation & Witness

Dan Vera



We gloried for hours in seventeenth century masterworks,
Deep in subterranean rooms of Sakler Gallery,
Hokusai’s Japanese ukiyo-e art.

Every fold of fabric painted precise,
Chrysanthemum, crane and willow tree,
Cases filled with the steady hand of four hundred year old genius.

We arose to Spring Washington in a full blossomed Saturday,
Walked to the Roosevelt memorial

Four administrations,
Four rooms of frieze and fixed type
salutes to civil liberty in granite.
Beloved monument to the interner of
descendents of Japanese ukiyo-e artists.

At the end of the 2nd World War,
We retired to the reflecting pool,
Walked beneath the pink colored branches of
A long ago Emperor’s shame-faced gift.

Felt the silk fabric of history folding and enfolding again.




Today on the radio it’s Chad.
Tomorrow it may be Cuba again.
And it seems like Baghdad will forever
Be exploding inside of my head.

My beard is brittle now
And I don't understand these wars anymore.
The Philippines? The Kaiser?
Who was I supposed to be mad at again?

The nice lady who still checks in on me
Says it's bad for my blood pressure,
All the rages,
All the empty grumbling.
Even a symbol can reach its limits.

When did I get so old anyway?

But they still call me.
And I arrive dutifully,
Change into my uniform
Rollup my sleeves and scowl
the defiant call to arms.

God I am so tired.
So tired and alone.

No woman would have me with this
Constant drumming in my ears.

And late at night I see them,
the thousands of flower faced boys
I called forth.
Bodies of ash and bone,
buried in the soil of a hundred places,
I knew nothing about
and struggled to pronounce correctly.



Dan Vera is a poet and writer living in Washington, DC. He's the editor of the Gay culture journal White Crane, co-founder of VRZHU Poetry Press, founder of Brookland Area Writers & Artists, and a member of DC Poets Against War, and the Triangle Artists Group. His poetry has appeared in Delaware Poetry Review, DC Poets Against The War, Konch, Shaping Sanctuary, and Pacifica Radio’s nationally broadcast Peace Watch program.


Published in Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2008.

Read more by this author:
Dan Vera
Dan Vera: Evolving City Issue

Kim Roberts and Vera on DC Author's Houses: Forebears Issue
Dan Vera's Intro to the US Poets Laureate Issue (Fall 2009)
Dan Vera on Four Laureates: US Poets Laureate Issue
Dan Vera: Tenth Anniversary Issue

Dan Vera: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue
Dan Vera: Floricanto Issue
Dan Vera on Sterling A. Brown: Poetic Ancestors Issue