Give Me Questions (On the Eve of Gulf War, August 1990)

by Jeff Rogers

In countries
Much east
Tank treads
Churn ocean of sand
To black froth.
While the dictator,
Our mad-bandit, mustachioed villain,
Hides in his palace,
Counting on his fingers,
Silently re-figuring, silently praying;
While birds mad to fall
On anything that moves in that desert,
Fill sky, running oil-black trails of bile.

Every liar, they say,
Someway reveals his bluff:
The fugitive flick of the eyes;
A small betrayal of vocal timbre;
Some covert signal truth of the body.
Tonight the President addresses
A fearful nation, and I watch
For the tell.
But eyes unwavering,
Shoulders square,
His slim repertoire of gestures
Coached and choreographed,
It’s clear he’s been prepped,
Rehearsed to some point
Of intended inscrutability.
Still, before long there it is.
Plain as day, though later
No TV commentator will note it,
No account I read will flag it.
It’s not there all at once,
But emergent. Gradually,
Almost imperceptibly,
The commander-in-chief
Begins to lean, ever-so-slightly
Away from the camera,
Back and to his right.
Over twenty minutes
He shifts less than an inch,
But it’s a clear move
Toward escape, a backing out
And away, as some last nugget
Of conscience in his cells
Struggles to tug him back
From that biggest of lies:
The killing lie. The lie
Of no return.

All across America
As it seems to me
The armchair patriots
Can only moan,
“Give me liberty
From fear of death!”
On soggy paper plates
That buckle
Under such weight
Of gray lard,
They do offer-up their brains
To the govern-mental
From deep within
TV news-cushions

Give me questions enough
To crack bedrock,
Jackhammer foundations;
Questions to pound skulls
Thick with paste and calcium,
From deep inside
With sharp beat
Of heart truly fearful
For first time,
For first time wide-open,
Questions to unstop arteries
Clogged-up by years
Of rancid sludge cynicism;
Give me questions thick as chemical porridge,
Rust-colored questions;
Questions hard
As muscle strangled
In steroid-twisted
Wire veins, give me questions.
All I ask is questions.



This poem was submitted as part of our communal poetry project, voces (voices) of the people (poets). If you’d like to contribute, please review the link, and send your poem to

BB Feb 2015