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Ellenberger, Anderson and Williams


The Watcher and the Watched, 2012


            for Susan Robinson

I send a poem to my friend,
asking her, Do you think it is finished?
My poem speeds off to join internet traffic,
passing through the super-computers of US intelligence
before it reaches her.


If I call long-distance to read her my poem,
each word I say,
each word she says,
travels through the same computers.


This gives me an idea.


What do these super-computers do?
They scan for keywords selected by humans
following the daily threat assessment.
And what do poems do?
They tell the truth of human feeling.


What if the world of poets
scanned the news for probable keywords?
What if we scattered them liberally
throughout our poems and shared our poems
prodigally, far and wide—
would humans who answer to no one
be forced, by the exigencies of their job,
to read poetry?


Poets too assess the real behind the rumour,
and should our keywords catch their ear,
what then—spy to spy—shall we say
to the boys and girls at the NSA?


We’ll say that humans are become
a single suffering tribe,
moving into unmarked territory,
hungry and hallucinating.


We’ll say, here’s a truth of human feeling:
it hurts to be awake out here.


Harriet Ann Ellenberger is an advisor to Trivia: Voices of Feminism and writes for the Return to Mago blog She lives in rural New Brunswick (Canada) and can be reached at



Gaza 2012



Through a pillar of cloud godlike Israelis

Fire by night airstrikes and drone eyes:

Missiles and epistles twitter through the sky.


Children scramble into bunkers, scatter

Through emergency rooms feeding on IV tubes

And shrapnel while rockets burst in the air.


Stones topple, crumbling concrete collapses

Under bomb weight and alliterative artillery fire

From the sea. Words fall apart, dirges and moans


Set syllables stuttering: sentences suture the skin:

Blood drips from the operational pen.


Kemmer Anderson just finished teaching Homer’s Iliad. He may be reached at






Israel is the colostomy bag

Of a dying empire, America.


It’s emptied out each day onto Gaza.

Everyone can then settle down

To relax and enjoy

A continuous firework show

Which costs three billion dollars a year.

It is paid for by the IDF

And the US of A.


There are cluster bombs,

Thermobaric missiles,

Depleted uranium shells,

And white phosphorus –

All carefully choreographed

To light up Palestine’s sky.


These novelties are regularly despatched

To a clientele hungry for pyrotechnics

From the Pentagon Incendiary Company –

Though it has a poor safety record

As its products routinely kill

Anyone who gets too close.


Resenting those who stage this spectacle

Of flying limbs and spurting blood

And tiny corpses with napalmed flesh,

Gaza residents occasionally

Strap home-made fireworks

To their own bodies and leave

Their open-air torture chamber –

This coliseum of exploding sewage –

And put on a display for their captors.

Heathcote Williams a poet, playwright and actor, has made a significant contribution to many fields.  He is best known for his extended poems on environmental subjects: Whale Nation, Falling for a Dolphin, Sacred Elephant and Autogeddon.  His plays have also won acclaim, notably AC/DC produced at London’s Royal Court, and Hancock’s Last Half Hour.  As an actor he has been equally versatile – taking memorable roles in Orlando, Wish You Were Here, and Derek Jarman’s The Tempest, in which he played Prospero.

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us as

To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”).  Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit and check the links on the top right. Thanks!

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