Executive Order

Sam Sax

The executive orders a daily execution.
Who’s condemned, what’s condoned,
where’s cordoned off, what’s to be archived,
to be thrown away? Little guillotine, dark
syringe, hangman’s drool-ink grimace spread
across the first page of a tacky dystopia.
The firing squad’s been instructed to call its rifles
swans. His signature’s a cygnet upon the page
oil slicked screaming in terror it might grow up
to be a bird of pray. How does anything become
law these days? What are the consequences
of paper? When’s the right time to punch
a policeman in the face? To break the bank
window? The pen’s mightier than the sworn
oath, the pen makes prisons wet with one stroke,
the pen chokes on its own ink, begs not to be
used like this, please. But what else can a word do
if enough people believe it? Can’t you say fire
& then scatter? Can’t you say your family’s
lost name & dust from your homeland lifts
from the tongue? Tonight i stood in a crowd
of thousands chanting spells & for a moment
the big death lifted. Let’s make our rhetoric
ache to suit us. Let’s break each phrase down
to its bricks & build a new city. Let’s lift
our voices like the mast of a great ship.
But first someone’s gotta kill him.

Sam Sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series, and Bury It. He’s received fellowships from the NEA, Lambda Literary, and the MacDowell Colony.