New poem by Julia Alvarez

Upon hearing that Laura Bush cancelled a tea for poets after hearing that some of them planned to protest the war in Iraq, Alvarez wrote:

The White House has disinvited the poets

to a cultural tea in honor of poetry

after the Secret Service got wind of a plot

to fill Mrs. Bush’s ears with anti-war verse.

Were they afraid the poets might persuade

a sensitive girl who always loved to read,

a librarian who stocked the shelves with Poe

and Dickinson? Or was she herself afraid

to be swayed by the cooing doves, and live at odds

with the screaming hawks in her family?

The Latina maids are putting away the cups

and the silver spoons, sad to be missing out

on música they seldom get to hear

in the hallowed halls. . . The valet sighs

as he rolls the carpets up and dusts the blinds.

Damn but a little Langston would be good

in this dreary mausoleum of a place!

Why does the White House have to be so white?

The chef from Baton Rouge is starved for verse

uncensored by Homeland Security.


Instead the rooms are vacuumed and set up

for closed-door meetings planning an attack

against the ones who always bear the brunt

of silencing: the poor, the powerless,

the ones who serve, those bearing poems, not arms.

So why be afraid of us, Mrs. Bush?

you’re married to a scarier fellow.

We bring you tidings of great joy—

not only peace but poetry on earth.