The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Alfred Corn


People are savages, that isn’t news,
But probes into the murk of how they choose
To be cruel might unearth some pointed clues.
Underpaid working stiff feeling the hate
When overseers’ needling starts to grate,
You’ll have a few with buds at the Lucky Eight;
But sometimes march straight home and just explode
At wide-eyed, trembling kids; or prod
Their frowning mother into an unwarmed bed.
Thumping a donkey, mule, or ploughman’s ox
Recycles old colonial hard knocks
Endured by farmers in Africa. And fox
Hunting enacts the many-against-one
Jungle law of global competition.
Fox taken out, competing thunders on.
In poison ink, draft the attack-dog page,
Payback for sneer or insult, spitting rage
Reborn in finely calibrated language.
Violence sells. Videos, thrillers, film
All push the fad for gunning down on whim—
Dealers, thugs, mobsters, soldiers: just ask them.
Agreed, it doesn’t work to rap out mere
Polemic, so I’m struggling to beat clear
Of that, and not to bark, “Don’t boss me, dear.”
Which might—or might not—mean the buck stopped here.




ALFRED CORN is the author of eleven books of poems, the most recent titled Unions (2015) and two novels, the second titled Miranda’s Book, which also appeared in 2015. He has published two collections of essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007.  Fellowships for his poetry include the Guggenheim, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets.



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