If I Was President (“Were” May Be Substituted by Those Who Prefer It)

If I was President

The first thing I would do

is call Mumia Abu-Jamal.


if I was president

the first thing I would do

is call Leonard Peltier.


if I was president

the first person I would call

is that rascal

John Trudell.


the first person I’d call

is that other rascal

Dennis Banks.


I would also call

Alice Walker.


I would make a conference call.


And I would say this:

Yo, you troublemakers,

it is time to let all of us

out of prison.

Pack up your things.


Dennis and John,

collect Alice Walker

If you can find her:

in Mendocino, Molokai, Mexico or


& head out to the prisons

where Mumia and Leonard

are waiting for you.

They will be traveling


Mumia used to own a lot

of papers

but they took most of those

away from him.


will probably want to drag along

some of his



who may well be


in New Delhi

will no doubt want to

dress up for the occasion

in a sparkly shalwar kemeez.


My next call is going to be

to the Cubans

all five of them;

so stop worrying.

For now, you’re my fish.


I just had this long letter

from Alice and she has begged me

to put an end

to her suffering.


What? she said.

You think these men are the only ones who suffer

when Old Style America locks them up

& throws away

the key?

I can’t tell you, she goes on,

the changes

this viciousness

has put me through,

and I have had a child to raise

& classes to teach

& food to buy

and just because

I’m a poet

it doesn’t mean

I don’t have to

pay the mortgage

or the rent.


Yet all these years,

nearly thirty or something

of them

I have been running around

the country

and the world

trying to arouse justice

for these men.


hasn’t stopped me.


hasn’t stopped me.

Lyme disease

hasn’t stopped me.

And why?


knowing the country


that I’m in,

as you are destined to learn

it too,

I know wrong

when I see it.

If that chair you’re sitting in

could speak

you would have it moved

to another room.

You would burn it.


So, amigos,

pack your things.

Alice and John and Dennis

are on their way.

They are bringing prayers from Nilak Butler and Bill Wahpepah;

they are bringing sweet grass and white sage

from Pine Ridge.


I am the president

at least until the Corporations

purchase the next election,

and this is what I choose

to do

on my first day.




For a fuller comprehension of this poem please view the videos: Incident at OglalaIn Prison My Whole Life, Trudell, and Why We Fight.

January 25, 2010

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