Walks at Midnight (1980s)
Abraham Lincoln walks at midnight still,
listening for an end to a ten-thousand-year war.
Sometimes he hides his face in his threadbare shawl,
but always he knows what horrors are happening here.
Lies still go limping through the streets and squares
to butter up the rich and batter down the poor.
Lincoln looks up at the field of stars
and wonders how their patience can endure.
Play-actors still are posturing on the stage,
uttering fraud and forging public taste.
They strut and pout, parading over the bridge
from honest patriotism to a bloated boast.
Liars and hypocrites and crooks still swarm
like locusts through this city on a hill;
but now they’re appointed by the ruling gang
and brag they’re carrying out the President’s will.
Old Abe still walks, from midnight till the dawn;
he comforts prisoners and soothes the ill.
Till the egg of peace be found on the White House lawn,
Abraham Lincoln walks at midnight still.
His Money's Good
Stone has hired a private guard
to shoo the homeless from his yard.
The guard is making minimum wage
and pulling two shifts every day,
but a job’s a job and he won’t make waves.
The guard patrols the solid fence
around the bounds of Stone's residence,
while Stone buys the dancers and sells the dance,
and the spreading green trees of his neighborhood
whisper to him that his money's good.
After the dance, Stone takes his stand;
his solid rod throbs in his hand
and he wields it like a magic wand.
He stands ready with his rod
to comfort ladies in their need.
Pro-life, their tribes proliferate,
and bulging bellies stretch the State.
Stone laughs as land life distends itself,
crowding the continental shelf.
Stone buys and sells; he stands and laughs.
Pink hands come shooting from white cuffs.
And the green trees of his neighborhood
whisper again that his money's good.
"Gabon" Means "Good Night" in Basque
I want to say "gabon";
It's been going on too long.
Smirking George lets his dogs
pee on my flowerbed.
So many dogs, so dumb.
They look like they're having fun,
but if I had my rights,
they'd very soon be gone.
I had my flowers laid
in patterns like the flag.
So much for my lovely plan.
Meanwhile, the Black Forest
is laid waste by acid rain;
the trees, once black and green,
turn into sterile logs
and leaders here declaim,
spewing out acid fog.
But on the Avenue
my friends will march for peace.
Can we bring back the trees
and plant the Bush elsewhere?
A better life could come
back here to Washington.
Paul Hopper has been a staff translator
with the Department of State since May 1986. Before that, he was a
translator elsewhere; and before that, a teacher of German, Humanities, and
introductory Linguistics. He has published a few poems of his own, some
humorous, in various little magazines, as well as a few translations of poems,
mostly from German or Spanish, and a few articles about language learning,
translation, and related topics. During the workweek, he is not a
humorless bureaucrat; he is a humorless support person for bureaucrats. His hobbies include humor (laughing at other
people’s humor, and attempting, often unsuccessfully, to make other people
laugh) and obsessing over the weather and his health.