»  [Not published]

June 2007

   Slough on the Potomac

(Thoughts while watching a debate
    in the U.S. Senate on S.1639 —
    the "Comprehensive Immigration
    Reform" bill of 2007.)

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Note: The following actually was published very briefly on National Review Online. The editors pulled it after an hour or so. There's no appreciation for poetic virtuosity any more.

The occasion for the poem was my having been incited to what Swift called "savage indignation" by the Senate debate on the above-mentioned bill, a plain and open fraud on the American working public. I'm not a big fan of Washington, D.C. at the best of times; and a congressional debate on "immigration reform" is definitely not the best of times.

What came to my mind was John Betjeman's great 1937 poem "Slough," in which he called for bombs to fall on that ugly town, symbol of all he hated in the England of his time: "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough …" Well, I was feeling the same way about D.C., not for the first time. Please note that I, like Betjeman, wished for the ordinary working people of the target zone to be spared, which is more mercy than Yahweh showed towards the Cities of the Plain.

The editors of National Review Online obviously thought the poem transgressed the bounds of good taste. Perhaps they were right; but in the hour or so the poem was posted, I received half a dozen reader emails, every one of which enthusiastically applauded my sentiment.

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Come, friendly bombs, fall on D.C.!
It's not fit for humanity.
There's nothing there but villainy.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs, and blow to kingdom come
Those pillared halls of tedium —
Hired fools, hired crooks, hired liars, hired scum,
Hired words, hired breath.

Mess up this mess they call a town —
A seat for twenty million down
And rights to the incumbent's crown
For twenty years.

And get that lobbyist who'll spin
His case to congressmen, who'll win
Amendments, raking fortunes in
For racketeers.

And smash his desk of polished oak
(Paid for by honest working folk
Toiling 'neath taxation's yoke)
And make him yell.

But spare the lesser worker bees,
Federal and private employees,
Working for meager salaries
In government Hell.

It's not their fault they cannot see
How power stifles liberty,
How citizens who once were free
Become enslaved.

From childhood they've been raised to think
That federal power solves everything
They can no longer smell the stink
Of power depraved.

Spare these folk; reserve your fire
For those who wallow in the mire —
That smug, smooth, chauffered, canting choir
Of puffed-up fools.

Come, friendly bombs, fall on D.C.!
Leave it as it used to be:
Potomac winding to the sea
By tree-fringed pools.