For Donald J. Trump, on the occasion of his victory

 

A Citizen arose, and men of blood,
With wrists for necks and heads a folded fist,
Advanced against him in a scarlet flood
Of wrath, whose feral queen shrieked in their midst.

And with him rose the brave, forgotten men,
Whose hardened hands were open, and whose arms
Held children Herod sought to kill. ‘Twas then
Death’s grim disciples doubled their alarms.

This much I know: A fist can never build,
Or grasp a hungry brother’s trembling hand;
That nations made of fists die unfulfilled;
For, fists can neither pray nor work the land.

Yet, all are citizens of earth’s one race
That God alone makes human, by His grace.

 

Joseph Charles MacKenzie is the first and last American to win First Place in the Long Poem Section of the Scottish International Poetry Competition, Henry M. Austin Poetry Prize.

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13 Responses

  1. Carole Mertz

    Mr. MacKenzie, I very much appreciate the sentiment of your poem and in particular the third stanza and the envoi. Your reference to the forgotten men of course recalls to me Amity Shlaes’ history Forgotten Man. I’ve not been bold enough to speak my political view. This poem gives me courage and I thank you for it. At this time and place in U.S. we are at a crossroad, and it is indeed a cross road, with so many seething. This pains me and begs for the relaxing of the fist.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you Mrs. Mertz, for your kind words. One of the flaws of communism is a deformed vision of human kind, represented here by the metaphor of the clenched fist. And certainly, we are all of us indebted to Mr. Mantyk who, rather like Victor Hugo, but without this latter’s defective philosophy, has done very well to imbue the world of classic verse with profound historical insight, showing his fellow poets the extent of poetry’s reach and, in many ways carrying the torch for the rest of us.

      Reply
  2. Carole Mertz

    Except for the title you provided, you might have written this as referring to many other periods of history. But by your title, you want us to know it’s about our very present in today’s U.S. And now I’m asking myself if that very specific pinning down removes the value of the poem in some way, making it less universal. (But for me the value remains quite potent.) Of course, there’s always the possibility that you are using a persona, and that you are not speaking from within your own true world view. (Since poetry allows us to do that, I’m always a little skeptical.) Either way, I appreciate the way you’ve presented it, and do not wish to be insulting.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      That is indeed a lovely and important consideration, quite worthy of discussion. Is there such a thing as political inspiration in poetry? Homer is certainly a poet of the specific, down to his politically-charged Catalog of Ships in Iliad Book 2. Victor Hugo’s Les Châtiments (1853, I believe) very specifically, and quite wrongly, attacks Napoléon III. Gwendolyn Brooks’s best poem, a sonnet if I am not mistaken, is a specific protest against the Vietnam War. The list is indefinitely long of great and universal poems of enduring value inspired by specific events. Many readers forget that the title of Tennyson’s greatest poem is not “In Memoriam,” but “In Memoriam A.H.H.,” informing us that the poet is writing about something deeply specific to himself. So, as to the question of poetry of political inspiration, I would say yes, it exists, and always has. As to its value as universal, we must keep in mind that the great specific events of history all turn on universals. This could not be more true then the event referenced by my title, where many questions of universal import are in play. As a post scriptum, one might consider Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride. There is almost nothing of this poem which is remotely universal, save the one idea of heroism at a time of need. Yet one would be hard pressed not to value this poem as inspired by the event it recounts in almost journalistic detail.

      Reply
      • Carole Mertz

        Thank you for your comments, for your references to other “politically inspired” poems, and for helping me think about the specifics and the universals in poems you mentioned.

  3. Michael Dashiell

    Outrage of democrats, that Ttump addressed neglected types, that either violent or benign we’re still one humanity under God. That’s how I interpret this excellent poem.

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      And your reading was precisely my intent, kind Sir. I strive to write with great clarity. Everyone should absolutely see Hillary Clinton as the “feral queen of wrath” in the first quatrain, absolutely. The Citizen in the first verse should immediately conjure the non-politician who won the election, Donald Trump. And yes, the metaphor of the walking fists has everything to do with those progressives denying the reality they have always denied, namely that the world is not constituted according to their dead utopian fantasies. And you have read my couplet just as I meant it to be read.

      Reply
      • Michael Dashiell

        I also liked your recognition of multiple uses of the human hand as a fist raised in protest or assault, for work, a helping hand, a comforting grasp and finally one folded in prayer.

    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Many thanks, kind Sir. I hope my sonnet has retained that first breath of inspiration from the night it was written.

      Reply
  4. Carol Ann R Whitmore-Herring

    Dear Mr. MacKenzie, I’m so grateful to have found your poetry, recommended by both Fr. Francis Miller, O.S. F., and Bishop Dolan, St. Gertrude the Great R. Catholic Church. Your beautiful and eloquent poetry is culturally and spiritually sustaining in this “war.”
    I send you my tiny haiku, in thanksgiving for your service to truth, beauty, and goodness:

    “Under The Storm.
    I am a wet leaf,
    Landed upon a wet rock,
    Holding to Hardness.”

    Sincerely yours,
    Carol Ann Rowzie Whitmore-Herring

    Reply
    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      Thank you, Carol, for the great honor of your exquisite haiku which I receive most unworthily. Yes, it seems that the clergy, in general, favor the Sonnets for Christ the King. At the same time, many of my personal associates, to speak of my own mentor, who are bound by no religion at all, have shown as much enthusiasm for my work as the most devout among us. Your response and many other edifying reactions of late compel me to take action on the release of these sonnets quite soon. So, I hope you will please pray for their grateful author. It is a great encouragement to receive the lovely homage of your poem.

      Reply
  5. Nikolas Ryan

    Dear Mr. MacKenzie,
    I’ve visited your website upon reading this poem and am intrigued by your collection of sonnets. Will it be available for sale any time soon? I see an audio recording is imminent. Do you have a publisher for this collection as well?

    Reply

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