To Jeb Bush Who Says We Were Kept Safe (from a New Yorker)


To Jeb Bush Who Says We Were Kept Safe (From a New Yorker)

I did not feel it.  Not even as I shut
the windows tight, rolling towels into the gutted
frames, could I escape the smell, the pall
that slithered through the towels, the foul
breath of burning plastic, exhalation of steel
and swivel chair, melt of carpeting, and, against our skin, the feel
of flesh made smoke, ash griming the reflection
of all those posters, pleas for resurrection
headlined “Missing,” as if a person known
to have worked in the South Tower had just gone
for a walk, amnesiac or spree–
Don’t get me wrong–I could not breathe–
but I’ve earned
no right to complain–I was not burned
by a fire ball–

Not even when off the buses
they jogged, assault rifles shouldered without fuss
onto Canal, their camo so uncamo
in a city that wears black, their ammo
rounding chests already plaqued with bullet-
proof vests, faces young as pullets–
the few whiskers, crescent brows, strands
of feather post-pluck–not even as they ran
down the subway stairs in a continuous
booted line, uniforms pleating sinuously
about ridged belts, bulked thighs,
and I, stopping one GI, asked why,
are you here
and she replied, muzzle a diagonal to bunned hair,
to keep you safe–

Nope.  Not then.  Not that whole year
nor some years more–not, certainly, in the grand export of fear–
new carpetings of fire balls, new reasons
for retribution–no, not in that season
nor in the heft of its poisonous web,
dear Jeb, did we feel
kept safe–


A bit of a discursive rant here to Jeb Bush, running for the U.S. presidency, who, discussing his brother’s presidency in the recent GOP debated declared that “he kept us safe.”  I am not sure any president can avoid attacks and conflict, homegrown or brought from abroad, but Jeb’s comment seemed particularly disingenuous.   (I’m also not sure of those last two lines–whether I should simply write “we were not kept safe,” instead of alluding to how we felt, but am somehow a little too superstitious to write it like that.  This process note has been edited since Rosemary’s comment below.) The photo is one of mine–all rights reserved. 

Am posting to Real Toads Open Platform.  Check out the wonderful poets there. 



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24 Comments on “To Jeb Bush Who Says We Were Kept Safe (from a New Yorker)”

  1. X Says:

    The poisonous web there in the end made me think of the Patriot Act and the “safety” that followed it after 911. I can not imagine being there when it happened and the feelings that roiled in the days and years to come after. Safe would not be a word I would use for it.

  2. thotpurge Says:

    Very nicely written… poisonous web rings true.

  3. A fantastically powerful write. Drank in every potent line. I dont think I could live through another Bush presidency. Seriously. I barely survived the last.

  4. To be kept safe.. I so wonder what all that safety has led to, and I think I meet the consequences in the eyes of refugees I come across in subway lines.. they were yet unborn, but bear the burden of the safety. The world seems a lot less safer now…

  5. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    It’s very vivid and immediate. I don’t see how you could delete those words – doesn’t make sense to me without them.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Rosemary-what I meant is I wasn’t sure whether to say at the end “we were not/kept safe” instead of “we did not feel/kept safe.” (The latter is so much more subjective and tentative, which I am typically more comfortable with–so went with that.) I may not have worded it write in process note and will check. Thanks much. k.

      On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 4:01 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  6. I agree with Rosemary – you must keep it as is.

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    You manage to cram every feeling of true fear,(not manipulated, canned fear purchased on the nightly news) shock and despair into lines that draw a shaky but true picture of a time that changed so much. Every time I hear that line I remember *all* the ones that Bush did not keep safe–all us civilians who lost, among many other personal freedoms, the security of not cowering and hating, taught to live in a state of perpetual ‘red alerts,’ from idealistic young men and women(so well described here) determined to defend, to the random ones rounded up and shamefully tortured to no purpose, to the invaded who died innocent, and are still dying. A fine and scathing piece, k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks– I felt a little stupid being so narrow in the focus of the piece but I decided that to get a broader focus would get more “canned” as you say so stuck with what I thought of, even though it felt a little minor/trivial compared to big and even small picture. Also tried to cut! Who knows when one improves things but I tend otherwise to drag on way too long! K.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ps– of course bush makes me furious and when he talks of going to old advisors I get really frightened. They were bad advisors then– why would they be better now when they have to justify themselves for past mistakes? Agh. Can’t stand it. K.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      ps – your comment is actually a poem. k.

      On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 8:44 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  8. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    This commentary is most timely, Karin. I am always sickened by political rhetoric, when an election draws near. It is always so pat and forgetful of the real issues of governance: for the people.

  9. Kay Davies Says:

    Bravo, Karin. Definitely a powerful and moving write, which shouldn’t, in my opinion, be changed…at least, not immediately. Maybe when you have given it time to digest in your poet-brain, you can make technical changes. Just sayin’…

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Kay. I’ve been thinking a lot about Thom Gunn, since a Toads Post a while back, and so have been using rhyming end words–but not sure they make the line breaks work well here–my kind of obsession, I guess. Thanks for your kind comment. k.

      On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 1:14 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


    • ManicDdaily Says:

      ps – hope all well with you! k.

      On Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 1:14 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  10. A great poem. It didn’t read like a rant but like a very reasoned argument against a person who believes in brutal force and control, no matter what. Thanks, I loved this piece.

    Greetings from London.

  11. There is so much substance in this. I was far from New York that dreadful day, but in the middle of the heartland I felt overwhelming terror. We were not kept safe/safer. George Bush opened a wound that sacrificed each of us wherever it is “each” of us resides. Such a powerful piece. Thanks for writing it and sharing it with us.

  12. Yvonne Says:

    Amen. The ending is fine as is.
    I also heard that comment and felt it false to the bone. The “grand export of fear” is all they gave us. Give us. Built on it, counted on it, amplified it.

  13. Kim Nelson Says:

    We got a hoot out of that ridiculous statement as well!

  14. M Says:

    to me, this line sums it up: “faces young as pullets”. powerful.

    we are a crippled nation. ~

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