Andrew Hudgins wants to read peace marchers the Riot Act, as his poem "Summer of '09" makes clear enough. One assumes the narrator, a peace marcher himself, has, by the time he comes to narrate this laundry list of fascist ills, had a conversion experience. It is less bitter than it sarcastic, though, less a poem than an excuse to make another list of data he's gathered about an oppressive government's brutal crushing of dissent. Hudgins narrator is the idealist, a citizen mounting a symbolic protest against war as an institution who, as he details in negative integers, the painful terrors those citizens locked in country are subjected to in very material ways. Self-criticism is a fine activity as far as it goes, but for all the absurdity he casts the laughing protesters at the peace rally in their being grossly removed from the horror they seek to vanish, Hudgins insulates the terror even more with the typical poet's mistake, IE trying to make the subject more convincing with an over blown language. He pulls out the megaphone, ramps up the language, and addresses the troops from the other side of the field.
For five miles, chanting Stop the war
and laughing with other laughers abouta government we almost trusted,I did not wear black glassesand a mask. No automatic rifleswung up, muzzle firming from ellipseto circle, assessing me, and I never,black boots hammering my spine,humped asphalt helplessly. At home,sunburned, I cracked a beer,not imagining the latchshattering, rifle stockclubbing the skull, militaryheel planted on my back—fascism'simplacable penitentiary memesof sadism and certitude. Last month,in a prison uniform and Thorazinicmonotone, I did not dronemy gratitude to the Brothers,since purged, at the Intelligence Ministryfor awakening me to my errors.My father was not summoned to receive,in bloody, hardening sheets, my body—each death and forced confession a scorchedtooth the dragon, in its madness, rippedfrom its hotnecrotic jaw.