Asking Questions: the Test in Protest


And what happens if we all don’t vote?

Consider this question and a new form of poem: The Quiz.

  • Quiz
By Linh Dinh

Invaders invariably call themselves:
a) berserkers
b) marauders
c) frankincense
d) liberators

Our enemies hate us because:
a) we’re sadists
b) we’re hypocrites
c) we shafted them
d) we value freedom

Our friends hate us because:
a) we’re bullies
b) we hate them
c) we’re hypocrites
d) we value freedom

Pushed to the ground and kicked by a gang of soldiers, about to be shot, you can save your life by brandishing:
a) an uzi
b) a crucifix
c) the Constitution
d) a poem

A poem can:
a) start a war
b) stanch a wound
c) titillate the masses
d) shame a nation
Read more, and learn the answers at:

Try your own quiz poem.

What This Year Will Be Like

Photos from March in Sacramento, January 21, 2017

I have a poem-a-day book; it is named 365 Poems for Every Occasion. When I am looking for a fortune or a horoscope—some forecast—I search for meaning in the poem for the day. Yesterday’s poem was William Stafford’s “Once in the 40s.” Before reading the piece, I wonder whether 40s refers to temperature, the 1940s, or middle age. After reading, I know it aptly fits all of these possibilities.

We were alone one night on a long road in Montana.

This was in winter, a big night, far to the stars.

We had hitched, my wife and I, and left our ride at

a crossing to go on. Tired and cold—but

brave—we trudged along. This, we said,

was our life, watched over, allowed to go

where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time

when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find

a night like this, whatever we had to give,

and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

I mosey through the book as if it is a bustling farmers’ market, noticing what is in season. I meet each page as a tourist rapt in her adventure. January’s themes center on new starts and cold and dreams and hard-won joy. I quietly wonder how the editors could have known what this month would be like.

When I receive a calendar, I look first for the emblem depicting July, my birth month. My 2017 calendar: Goats in Trees features three goats and the legs of two others in stick of a tree. The part of me craving prescience, some prediction for what to expect for the month makes me compare my month’s ungenerous number of goats to, for example, January’s single specimen or June’s ample display of a tree appointed with more than nine billies and nannies and a herd of nearly twenty (eighteen) below. But who’s counting? And does their color matter?

My jealous heart still weighing my fortunes, I note that the July chapter of my poem-a-day collection is equally relevant to this January’s presidential inauguration and the Women’s March (on Washington, on Sacramento, and more). Independence Day yields half dozen poems with America in their titles.

My travels in Europe over winter break, in the looming shadow of a Trump presidency, yielded more questions, comments, and criticism about America than other travels have. I have no answers. I look to tomorrow’s poem: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream within a Dream.”

There is little as unpredictable as being a tourist. Poe ends the poem with the relevant question: Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?

The Protestor

She spends the cool morning looking for blood or the best substance to impersonate this fluid. She settles on crimson paint to use as rouge, as sunburn, as ink to scrawl out a message as if this message had been torn from her own skin. But this is not how the fight feels inside her yet. Can’t you see? She is a zebra that has been attacked by a hyena. She has been numbed by shock.

Do not go gentle into that good night

–Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Paz and Graffiti

A man paints Oaxaca wants peace (Oaxaca quiere paz) in the streets as traffic persists. It appears to be futile endeavor as the paint smears into the intersection, but he is determined even in the face of fast taxis and bus barreling up Reforma.

I try to imagine working in spray paint, writing in a much larger font…

Even the hottest nights, I mask my face with a bandana, shroud myself in a dark hoodie, put on my fastest tennies, arm myself with my favorite colors of paint: red or those who they tried to eliminate, black for the lost ones they want to quietly efface.

For them, the oppressed, the unjustly imprisoned, the dead, I paint reminders of their names, these veterans of this millennium’s wars, sketched on the city’s vacant canvases, on the walls of banks and businesses that will try to whitewash my missives, but I will return the next dusk, for I refuse to be erased.


From Beyond Words

Mudd Club 4th floor gallery
Manhattan, April 1981

If you bomb
the IND
or tag the 2
dousing it in tribal
shrapnel, you’re it
—the shit—
If you can lie
between the rails
—Please Stand
Clear the Closing—
or press yourselves
betw. train
& the wall
spray can rattling
like a tooth—The roof
the roof
the roof is on
the 6 will whistle
* Read Poet Dennis Schmitz’s collection, The Truth Squad, Copper Canyon Press: What is the truth? And, how will you spread/spray/shepherd it?

“The only weapon that we have in our hands…is the weapon of protest,” Martin Luther King Jr.

I have returned to Oaxaca and have spent time documenting the strife here as well as trying to decipher the best way to present the protests, marches, blockades, vigils, and other actions happening here. Here, I must be a tourist, not an activist. Thus, I will start with the words of the protestors and their signs and art.

One of the pieces of graffiti offers Che Guevara’s: “Hasta la victoria [siempre]” but the problem is that no one I have asked can explain what victory might mean. In an intercambio on Saturday, a seventeen-year-old explained that, for her, victory is about achieving the common good, but she swiftly conceded that it is nearly impossible to agree on what the common good is because it depends on so many factors.

Here is a little bit about what has transpired:

Two Marches

Car MArch

On Saturday morning, a group stopped traffic as they were marching to encourage traffic to slow down and think of the children trying to navigate the crowded streets of Oaxaca. At first, I couldn’t tell what it was, but then I looked inside the lane of marching parents and saw the congestion caused by the bicycles with training wheels, toy cars, wagons, and tricycles.

I was even blocked by the onslaught of miniature traffic as the march made its way into Llano Park. Standing there, staring, I almost didn’t hear the tiny, frightened shout of !Con per—meeeeeeeeeeeeee—so! (Con permiso is equivalent to excuse me) as a tiny tricycle wheel rolled over my left foot.

The second march I saw was of people with a herd of pet dogs (mascotas). They were protesting the cruel treatment of animals, and their timing is good because as the tourist season unfolds, the ubiquitous skinny dogs just disappear from the streets. Rumor has it, nothing good becomes of them, that it’s better not to know.

Instead, people parade with their perfectly polished pets, passing the remaining skinny dogs and their hungry stares. Why not bring collars and make them pets? Why not throw dog chow into the streets as some processions offer rice, beads, or sweets?


Dog March