Poet Whispering In the Ear of Congress

A Flock of Chickens, waiting for Congress to Act.

What if this flock of chickens got riled up? Imagine it.

Congress, let me whisper in your ear:

“The chickens are circling and blotting out the day. The sun is bright, but the chickens are in the way…”

Imagine a sky full of White Leghorns blotting out the sun. Feel the chill of the chicken eclipse. This may be the start of something big, perhaps cataclysmic.

“Yes, the sky is dark with chickens, dense with them. They turn and then they turn again…”

They are circling, something is seriously wrong. Congress, what have you done to cause a commotion in this usually tranquil flock of cluckers?

“These are the chickens you let loose one at a time and small — various breeds. Now they have come home to roost—all the same kind at the same speed.”
–Home to Roost, Kay Ryan

These chickens could be the phantoms of Congressional budget policies of the past. The policies approved by you and your predecessors appear to be coming home to roost.

A single bill that you passed, the Medicare prescription drug plan, added a $7.2 trillion liability to the budget, and the tax system, weakened by the Bush task cuts and the recession, does not provide enough money to pay the bill. It’s a good bill; why not pay for it?

And then there are the deficit-funded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whoa! What have you done? The cost: $3.2 to $4 trillions, all borrowed money. Good thing interest rates are low.

You have raised the debt ceiling and have borrowed to cover the gap. You refuse to raise taxes, but, surely, you don’t really believe that there is that much money to cut in discretionary spending. Look at the Yellow and Red areas in the chart below. That’s the spending that’s out of control. Get a grip, Congress.

Debt as Percent of GDP

Let me whisper in your ear: your chickens are coming home to roost. Take care of your flock, Congress?

The italicized quotes above are from Home to Roost, a poem by poet laureate Kay Ryan, who lives north of San Francisco in Fairfax. Ms. Ryan has recently been awarded a MacArthur Genius grant. I think her poems have a lot to say about our times, but I don’t know if she would agree with the above interpretation. She writes that we may gain insight into the world around us.

The Voice of America has this to say about Ms. Ryan:

“Ryan has published seven collections of poetry, beginning with a self-published volume in 1983. But it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that she began to acquire a national reputation. In the meantime, she taught remedial English at a community college in Marin County, California, and lived quietly with her longtime spouse, Carol Adair, who died in January 2009.

Unlike many poets of her stature, Ryan has never been interested in the busy academic swirl of conferences and university life, or even in the high visibility her poet laureate post, her Pulitzer Prize and now, her MacArthur Genius grant have given her.

She says she is already ‘overly visited by the sensation and the ideas of others’ and ‘would like peace from it most of the time.’”
–Voice of America

Home to Roost originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Poetry magazine. Perhaps, you would like to read the original and hear the poet recite her work (she is a great reader). Try this link at Poetry.org.

The collection The Niagara River contains Home to Roost and 60 other poems. It is available in print and as an eBook on Kindle (I bought the eBook). She has published several other collections that are available on-line or at your local library or poetry oriented book seller. She is worth going out of your way to read.

My congratulations to Kay Ryan on winning the MacArthur award, and I thank Poetry.org for making so many poets and their poems available on the Internet.

Day 75: The Niagara River, Kay Ryan (Grove/Atlantic Press , 2005).

About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure; Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical; Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked.
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