Margaret Randall lived for many years in Mexico, Cuba and Nicaragua. When she returned home to the U.S. in 1984, the government ordered her deported under a provision of the 1952 McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act, alleging that some of her writing "went beyond the good order and happiness of the United States. She won her case in 1989. Randall lives and writes in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Among her most recent books of poetry are: My Town, As If the Empty Chair / Como Sila Silla Vacia, Where Do We Go From Here? (all from Wings Press, San Antonio) and Ruins (U of New Mexico P). The four poems published here are from a new collection, The Rhizome as a Field of Broken Bones (Wings Press, 2013). Other forthcoming titles include a collection of essays, More Than Things (U of Nebraska P, 2013) and Che on My Mind (Duke UP, 2013). Visit her web site here.
Canary in the Mine 2
In Dresden and Tokyo, Hiroshima, Baghdad,
Kabul, the Pine Tree Rez or South Bronx,
canaries are deemed collateral damage
by those who order the firepower, drop the bombs.
He comes from a war they said would keep us free.
Now home is a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.
No one can put it back together, no one
silence the waking dreams.
After two tours and a lie for every secret,
she thought the VA would help
but there’s no place for women veterans with PTSD
and rape lives wherever healing turns a trick.
The latest in body armor leaves more amputees.
If there’s anything left
send it back to a grateful nation
in the dignity of a flag-draped box.
For those who do come home: long silence,
beloved faces like no one she has ever known,
voices that tell her
she’s the canary in the mine.
Canary in the Mine 3
We turn the major battles over and over
in our hands
but ignore this man
who can’t afford his final operation,
transgender skin folded, unfolded:
acceptable body armor.
Where male privilege falls short
some see a freak of nature,
others embrace identity’s pride.
In this violent round
she/he’s the latest canary in the mine.
Canary in the Mine 4
A thousand feet beneath the African veld,
Atacama desert or gentle hills of Tennessee
ravaged lungs rasp a warning,
tell us miners themselves are the canaries in the mine.
On the highest catwalk of the tallest building
or locked inside a steel bullet on the ocean floor
I tell you all whose sweat turns instantly to blood
is tiny and yellow and sings:
every one of us: canaries in the mine.
David and Goliath
Time rolls off high mesas,
thin sheets of alabaster
tough as desert varnish.
between breastbone and heart
claiming its right to jolt
with the minor key strains
of Vietnam’s national anthem.
Time and the musical phrase
so distant from my culture
seem an unlikely pair
of migratory birds
and I toss bits of memory
across this Linus blanket
—gossamer-light yet hooked
on every unresolved reward.
Vietnam: David and Goliath
of my generation.
Every righteous struggle
against gods of greed and blame,
every woman used and abused
only because she is a woman,
every hungry child
frightened of home.
Cunning disguises itself as solace,
roads wander a map
until they stagger to the edges and fall
from this enormous game board.
Invisible slivers of ice
burrow beneath skin
that only wants to be caressed
at every tired hollow.
photo courtesy of Albuquerque the Magazine