In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

In fervent hope of the re-election of Barak Obama


I wrote the poem below in 2008, in wonder, delight and trepidation at the election of Barack Obama. Was America ready for this wonderful development ? The answer would appear to be, barely. Four years later, he is still there, but has had to fight for every inch of movement into the light, restrained and restricted by blind, frantic and self-deceiving opposition. They are obstructing their own only hope. If he can bear it, he needs another four years, for all our sakes.

The Election of Barak Obama

We needed chance to support this wonder –
not just the mechanics of evolution
littered with sacrifice and the dead,
nudging us on towards an edge –

but the chance of two disgraceful terms
and an opponent always too old, whose “maverick” heart
stalled at the crunch on fear and hate
wooing it in others and betraying himself ;

and then a thirst across America –
distraught in days of loss and fracture –   
for something clean, fresh and remarkable
to be proud of and to lift the spirit ;

but then too we needed this man
from nowhere and from everywhere
who knew the time was his to claim
and saw his line   

and held it and stayed upright             
through months of hurricane.
Treasure him.
Keep him safe.

                                                                             Rogan Wolf

And now here is the first part of another, much longer, poem, first begun in 1990. It features the Last Emperor of Byzantium. By the time he was crowned in Mystras, southern Greece, Byzantium was already largely a memory, no longer an empire, heir of Rome, just a patch of land in Greece ; and the great capital city of Constantinople was already encircled. a depleted relic of former times.  So what was this man being crowned to do ?  What defend ? What stand for ? These days, I think of this passage every time there is an American presidential election.

The Last Emperor of Byzantium

Who will be the last emperor ?
Who will volunteer ?
Who will wear, for us,
the crown of our disaster,
saying, this is worth my life
and the lives
of all who remain here with me,
my neighbours. This.
This flapping rag our banner.
This rubble we call battlements
which all night guards us
and all night we guard.
These dead hollow squares
whose shattered paving stones
now make room for thistles
and the yellow grass
lanes for shy lizards
and hushed games
for doomed children. This slow
striding of ragged towers
which do, despite all, constitute the lines
of a great city, frontage and establishment
of one way of being reasonably civilised.
If to be human has been valid here,
the long and terrible trail of our history
may yet be vindicated. But now ?
Have we anything here
actual and worthy to defend ?
Who will be the last emperor ?
Who will volunteer ?

Rogan Wolf