“Harbinger” by Ilyse Kusnetz

Ilyse Kusnetz


Just another day           in hyper-capitalist society—
in my Facebook feed,           news of rabbits and

chickens tortured on meat farms,           but I’m still not
vegan and I’m waiting           to die myself

from cancer I may have gotten           from soil or ground water
contaminated by nuclear weapons,           and no amount

of posting uplifting stories           is going to fix that.
And lord, let them cease           trying to control women’s

bodies, people’s genders,           people’s desires,
let them stop hating people           because of their color

and ethnicities. I want to shake           the bigots and racists
till their teeth come loose           and they lose their bite,

till their tongues           swell up in their mouths
and they’re stricken mute.           I want to save

all the slaughtered animals,           save the seas and their
inhabitants—whales, birds,           the tiniest bivalve—

from choking on plastic.           I want to purify the air
of sulfur and carbon dioxide,           scrape the lead

from plumbing pipes,           god I need to do something
besides dying, besides           thinking about death

and the neo-fascist           politicians who lead
a nation of people           unable to think critically

after 40 years’ systemic           dismantling
of the education system           by the rich

so their lackeys           can make it
illegal to prosecute           corporations for poisoning

the air, earth, water—and Jesus,           isn’t it
a kind of           mental illness

annihilating what you need           to stay alive
for the accumulation of           blind profit—

and in the process killing           and killing and
murdering me,           along with the people and animals

I can’t save but want to,           with all my goddamn
fucking heart, but instead           I’m waiting to die,

trying to find some           last meaning in all of this.
A warning, perhaps.           You’re next.

Poets Respond
May 10, 2016

[download audio]


Ilyse Kusnetz: “Every day in my Facebook feed I see news items and petitions about gross injustices—today it just happened to be a story about animal torture that sparked my outrage, which so quickly spirals to reacting to other sound bytes of horror in my feed and in emails that are sent to me because of petitions I’ve signed—and I want to make a difference, but at the same time I feel helpless, even more so knowing that my struggle with cancer has been taking all my energy. I have to hope that others will take up the battles that need to be fought, but at the same time the search for meaning in my own life has become more urgent. Sometimes all we can do is bear witness.” (website)

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