Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hey Columbus! by Thomas Hubbard

You step out of your sport utility vehicle and
begin fueling on pump number three while I
finish up on pump number four.

You eye my braid, my old car, my flute bag
in the rear window, and that expression comes
onto your pale, clean-shaven face.

You seem upset that I don't shuffle, step aside,
show embarrassment about my dark skin, and
why must I have feathers in plain view?

You are columbus, with your arrogance and
your privilege and your superior equipment,
you are that same murdering foreigner.

You wish I would go away, would not be
present right there with road dirt on my car,
would be somewhere else, doing menial work.

Hey columbus, nobody needs you here.  We
lived here for tens of thousands of years before
you came with your virulent diseases.

Hey, columbus, your arrogance wears thin, and
a cheap, pitiful little thief shows through — your
time has been already too long.

You are that same columbus who accepted
my Arawak cousins' hospitality, there on Hispaniola,
then gathered folks up to sell as slaves in europe.

You are that same columbus who noticed
gold ornaments, who demanded tribute, who
cut off hands or feet for not bringing enough.

You are that same columbus whose own
spanish priest, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas,
wrote about your unimaginable cruelty.

You might say that was long ago, that I am
only showing my ignorance and paranoia,
that you have nothing to do with it.

You might be lying, too.  Your arrogance
gives you away, shows you out.  You are that
same columbus who thought himself better.

Hey, columbus, haven't you stole enough, 
aren't you rich enough yet to get into that
exclusive little heaven you talk about?

Hey, columbus, if my honest half-breed presence
causes you discomfort — if you had rather your 
wife and kids didn't see me, why not leave?

You are that same columbus, yes it's you
stepping from your sport utility vehicle onto
the flat pavement of a filling station.

You are that same columbus and you can't hide,
even in the privacy of afternoon drinks at your
exclusive clubs — arrogant stink surrounds you.

You are that same old columbus who
dreams of empire, who pretends to own
this land, who is willing to kill for profit.

You are that same old columbus who brought us
cheap thrills, oil spills, insurance bills, close-order drills, 
targeted kills and land fills with radioactive waste.

You are that same old columbus, and you
wish I would go away?  After all these years,
after your people have done these things?

Hey columbus, why don't YOU go away?
Hey columbus, your scorn displeases me.
Hey columbus, your elections are phony.
Hey columbus, your time's about up, enit?
Hey columbus, haven't you made enough of a mess?
Hey columbus, gather up your trash and carry it away.
Hey columbus, go back where you came from.
Hey columbus, john wayne has plastic teeth.
Hey columbus, last call.
Hey columbus, keep moving, no stopping here, move right along.
Hey columbus, whooee up there, hoosh! soooie pig.

I heard Thomas Hubbard read this on Columbus Day — perfectly topical and addressing the myriad questions that had been running through my head on that day — an American holiday — chiefly, why is this a holiday?

Without pretense, Thomas Hubbard nails it here. The language ain't fancy, and neither are the sentiments, which contrast well with everything that Columbus represents:  the elitist, gas-guzzling, resource-consuming, earth-desecrating powers-that-be run amok. In essence, our ruling class. The phrase that comes to mind is American Exceptionalism, for whose offensiveness we may well thank/blame Columbus himself.

One this is certain:
we need more poems like this.
We need more poets shouting this from street corners and rooftops.
More, I say! More!


A mixed-blood, of (probably) Cherokee, Miami, Irish and English ancestry, the American poet Thomas Hubbard grew up among factory workers in the 1950's.  A teacher of writing and other subjects, he has worked also as a carpenter, blues musician and freelance writer. He won the Seattle's Grand Slam in 1995, and since has written three chapbooks, Nail and Other Hardworking Poems, Junkyard Dogz, and Injunz.  He has also published an anthology including 32 spoken word performers, titled Children Remember Their Fathers.  His poetry, fiction and reviews have been published in numerous journals.  Hubbard has served as vice president of the board of directors for the Washington Poets Association, and currently serves on the editorial staff of two magazines: Raven Chronicles and Cartier Street Review


This week's editor is the Seattle poet and artist T. Clear, who blogs here, and dislikes referring to herself in the third person.

When you've read Hey Columbus! Please check out the Tuesday Poets collective in the sidebar. We live all over the place from the US, the UK and Europe to New Zealand and Australia, and every Tuesday we post poems by ourselves or poets we admire.


Ben Hur said...

I love poems like this with passion that kick ass or arse depending where you come from.

Thanks, T. Great post! I agree, we need more poets shouting about the world's ills and waking up the millions who sleepwalk through consumer society.

Unknown said...

Beautiful! Thank you!

Kathleen Jones said...

Shelley said that poets should be political, but we tend to brush political poetry aside and downgrade it. Seamus Heaney found that it was usually valued less than than other poetry. He found ways to write about the Irish situation that got round these perceptions. I don't think we should have to write in metaphors to get the message across. As poets, we should speak out against what's going on in the world. I agree with everything this poet says. Aggressive european colonialism has gradually wiped out people who knew how to live with the natural world without exterminating it.

Unknown said...

Kathleen is right. Poets are not separate from the rest of the society, but we need a lot lot lot of courage to speak up. http://thoughtemotionthing.blogspot.com/