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 Day 19

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Burden Note* by JONATHAN ANDERSEN   The undertone, the hum, the drone, the burden note once carrying low through the chorus, now whines above …like a mosquito. Even when you don’t see them, you can hear them, you know that they are there…. I want to make sure that people understand or like bees swarming […]

Anderson, Orloski and Lojeski


Burden Note*



The undertone, the hum, the drone, the burden note

once carrying low through the chorus, now whines above

…like a mosquito. Even when you don’t see them, you can

hear them, you know that they are there….

I want to make sure that people understand

or like bees swarming against a sun-drenched barn

that drones have not caused a huge number

of civilian casualties

or a little whistle before Hellfire

There was a drone attack on a religious teacher

while he was coming in a car with some other people,

after which he was brought to the village

…for the most part they have very precise,

precision strikes. The air itself alive,

your pulse a double-tap

A lot of people were gathering, families…

You still have hands to gather hands, still a mouth

to wail whose head, whose eyes

…another drone attack, killing

the small children

We’ve succeeded in defending our nation,

taking the fight to our enemies…

We did not know that America existed.

In your nightmares the drones are reborn

butterflies, dragonflies, become the score

in a score of corpses smoking on blackened stones

I think there’s been this perception somehow

that we’re just sending in a bunch of strikes willy-nilly….

They are in the air 24 seven….because of the noise, we’re

psychologically disturbed – women, men, and children….

This is a just war…waged in self-defense

In a state called Virginia there are boys a little older

than your boy would have been, sitting in a dark room

high-fiving and fist-bumping bugsplat

…those deaths will haught us for as long as we live….

One day, my brother was coming from college

I heard a drone strike and I felt

something in my heart


*The bolded statements are the remarks of President Obama; in plain font is the voice of the poet; in italics are the statements of survivors and eyewitnesses of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan collected in the Stanford/ New York University report Living Under Drones



He Was “Employed at Will”



Bruce worked a long time, twenty years,

drove C.D.L. trucks, changed parts several times,

established operations-schedules for workers,

found time to get the Company lots of work.

“By Will of God,” he used to boast,

“I ain’t never been once shit-canned, Chuck!”

By shit-canned” Bruce meant employers

never fired him until today – August 6,  

“same day Tojo got what was coming,”

& a Regional Manager walked into Bruce’s cubicle,

he saw lots of paper atop desk, “sticky-notes,”

and a calendar exhibiting rural Pennsylvania,

a barn, split rail fence, bright blue sky,

a natural gas well pad under construction.


Bruce looked at him, smiled,

the Regional Manager returned Pepsodent-smile,

got down to business, deep down into U.S. business,

informed Bruce he was “employed at will,”

& he’s no longer employed by the Company.

He must hand-in cell phone, all keys, safety-glasses,

clear his desk as he willed,

while another manager kept close watch.


Could Bruce collect unemployment?

Could he afford Cobra health insurance?

Will the Labor Board understand

what’s meant by being “employed at will?”

Bruce did not “get it,”

“what the hell are Right-to-Work States,” he thought,

“and why didn’t the suit have the balls

to tell me what bad I done?”


Bruce’s wife Patti, after the shock, might have answers –

She’s on dialysis, Patti understood how a bad agent

can enter a state of being, against one’s will,

and Bruce would require lots of understanding,

Neil Young “relating,” he must quickly find another outfit

who will give him a D.O.T. Physical, employ Bruce at Will.


His desk-top’s clear now,

“Work Safely, Asshole!” sign torn down from wall,

Bruce considered an age-discrimination law-suit,

he’s pushing 57-years old, such “settlement” would help –

maybe he’ll get lucky, and the Regional Manager

shall be stupid, hire a YOUNGER man in Bruce’s position,

“Ain’t God employed at will?” he thought.

Yahweh counted hairs on people’s heads,

protected our troops in Afghanistan,

and Bruce went home, 2006 Impala cruised,

entered I-83’s entrance ramp for Baltimore,

toward anointed age 62, he sang Star Spangled Banner

to the dirty harbor, an aimless shark’s in the Aquarium,

knowing many others won’t know what will hit them next.


Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pennsylvania.  He’s somehow never been “fired” from a job, came awful close, but just like at Disney Corp. there’s “always tomorrow.”  He can be reached at






When it’s all about money,

it’s about nothing. And not

the Taoist nothing of nonbeing, but the other nothing,

the one that fills hospitals,

battlefields and dark alleys.


Paul Lojeski’s poetry has appeared in print and online journals, including Counterpunch. He’s also the author of the satiric novel, The Reverend Jimmy Pup.  The Reverend ruminates at  He lives with his wife and daughter in Port Jefferson, NY.


Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

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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 files to “.doc”).  Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions). Submissions not following the guidelines may or may not receive a response.

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

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