Election Day poems: “Democracy” X 3

August 12th 2014_106 Huron Street_Toronto_graffiti

Today, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, is traditionally “Election Day” in the U.S.A.  Following, some poems to ponder…

Langston Hughes




Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.


Dorianne Laux (born 1952, Augusta, Maine, U.S.A.)



When you’re cold—November, the streets icy and everyone you pass

homeless, Goodwill coats and Hefty bags torn up to make ponchos—

someone is always at the pay phone, hunched over the receiver

spewing winter’s germs, swollen lipped, face chapped, making the last

tired connection of the day. You keep walking to keep the cold

at bay, too cold to wait for the bus, too depressing the thought

of entering that blue light, the chilled eyes watching you decide

which seat to take: the man with one leg, his crutches bumping

the smudged window glass, the woman with her purse clutched

to her breasts like a dead child, the boy, pimpled, morose, his head

shorn, a swastika carved into the stubble, staring you down.

So you walk into the cold you know: the wind, indifferent blade,

familiar, the gold leaves heaped along the gutters. You have

a home, a house with gas heat, a toilet that flushes. You have

a credit card, cash. You could take a taxi if one would show up.

You can feel it now: why people become Republicans: Get that dog

off the street. Remove that spit and graffiti. Arrest those people huddled

on the steps of the church. If it weren’t for them you could believe in god,

in freedom, the bus would appear and open its doors, the driver dressed

in his tan uniform, pants legs creased, dapper hat: Hello Miss, watch

your step now. But you’re not a Republican. You’re only tired, hungry,

you want out of the cold. So you give up, walk back, step into line behind

the grubby vet who hides a bag of wine under his pea coat, holds out

his grimy 85 cents, takes each step slow as he pleases, releases his coins

into the box and waits as they chink down the chute, stakes out a seat

in the back and eases his body into the stained vinyl to dream

as the chips of shrapnel in his knee warm up and his good leg

flops into the aisle. And you’ll doze off, too, in a while, next to the girl

who can’t sit still, who listens to her Walkman and taps her boots

to a rhythm you can’t hear, but you can see it—when she bops

her head and her hands do a jive in the air—you can feel it

as the bus rolls on, stopping at each red light in a long wheeze,

jerking and idling, rumbling up and lurching off again.


from: Facts About The Moon, copyright © 2007, Dorianne Laux


Leonard Cohen

(Songwriter/singer, born 1934, Montreal, Canada)



It’s coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It’s coming from the feel
that this ain’t exactly real,
or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It’s coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don’t pretend to understand at all.
It’s coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.
It’s coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
and it’s here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It’s coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we’ll be making love again.
We’ll be going down so deep
the river’s going to weep,
and the mountain’s going to shout Amen!
It’s coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on …
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.