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Friday, February 22, 2019


by Ben Prostine

Laura Contreras protests in Cincinnati, Ohio against President Trump's declaration of national emergency. ALBERT CESARE, The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY Network

A state of emergency is not the same thing as a
catastrophe, or a disaster. The key is in the first word.
It is the state in emergency. And it means certain things

emerge: off shore drills and coast guard ships,
the strip mine and the strip search and digital fingerprints –
an administrative task force on ad hoc prisons

and job destruction in the public sphere: more
security guards, more border patrols, customs and police
forces in-vested in military garb while a new design

for a portable bullet proof wall is engineered
and investments rise in razor wire stock. The day ends
with the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq looking up.

But disaster – that’s something different, older, astral.
It’s written in the stars, in fate, in sense: burning up
the bowels of the earth means bringing in a rising tide.

And catastrophe just takes us downward. The drama
of the state comes to its off-script denouement as
the choir desires to enter the theater once more.

The propped walls come down. Speech turns from
the ten thousand screens and returns to the streets, the fields,
something common: a world to be turned upside down

and rooted: this one round burning earth to be made green
again. A solidarity in the ruins, a power in the light –
out of disaster and catastrophe, emerging sprouts.

Ben Prostine lives near Soldiers Grove in southwest Wisconsin where he works as a herdsman, farm hand, and writer. He is the host of Poems Aloud!, a forthcoming radio program airing on WDRT (Viroqua, WI).