I know of a man I never met
A foe of mine, I can only bet
A very close impersonal friend
To my unknown needs he’s supposed to tend
To rehabilitate me from what to what
Maybe he’s a pure-bred and I’m only a mutt
We make quite a pair
‘cept it’s me in the pound
Yet he’s always around
A thousand miles away
Yet I can hear his voice
“If charged you are guilty”
“If hungry its your choice”
I wrote this poem in 1987 while imprisoned for my epic failure to register for the military draft. Below is a copy of the actual handwritten poem. I had the original taped on my office wall near my desk for years.
Draft registration was reinstated by President Jimmy Carter as a response to the Russians invading Afghanistan. Seems to me that invading Afghanistan would have been punishment enough. We had the opportunity to learn such as lesson later — or not. President Ronald Reagan, after breaking a campaign promise to abolish draft registration, continued it. I was in the first batch of young men subject to this new law in 1980. I spent the entire decade sparring with the world’s greatest military superpower, with a couple of years of probation and community service ending in 1989 — like I need the federal government to sentence me to community service! Out of the millions of young men in violation of this Military Selective Service Act, less than a dozen were convicted of such flagrancy; all were public in their opposition. Seems pretty pathetic for a so-called superpower. I didn’t learn my lessen.
I feel no need for vindication, but I do feel like I have now lived through a full cycle of history, and history is on my side, if you believe in sides, that is. While assuring my incarceration to make sure that I wasn’t around to not defend our homeland, the U.S. was training and equipping their version of freedom fighters, the likes of Osama bin Laden and the lesser known Frank N. Stein.
This poem is about President Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese III. Though there was a lot of competition, Ed Meese was only clearly beat out as the most pathetic administration crony by James Watt, Secretary of the Department of Interior, which Mr. Watt, in his signature suicidal hatred of government, wanted to abolish; though it’s still not entirely clear whether it was the department or the environment he wanted to destroy. Ed Meese was infamous for the two sayings recounted in the last two lines of my poem. In an astounding disavowal of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Meese, claimed that most suspects can be rightly assumed to be guilty. Well, it’s not like he was the overseer of federal and constitutional law — sheesh! The other statement, out of the jurisdiction of even his ignorance, was that if people are hungry in America, it’s their choice. When I heard this, I could have swore that his little round belly shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. Well, OK, it wasn’t his belly full of jelly.
I’ve made my choice, and 28 years later I’m still hungry for justice…