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Commencement Exercise


Paul Wilner

Once American faces

were beautiful to me,

I was their loyal lover,

but now they look cruel

and as if they had narrow thoughts.

- Paul Goodman

The path to justice is neither

easy, nor inevitable, as made

painfully obvious in history,

our own and the world’s.

So we rely on you, those

whom we’ve repeatedly

reminded, know nothing.

We know less.

Greta, Alexandria, Emma Gonzalez.

Who needs Savio, or that other

Mario, lost in the freed speech of time,

like the rest of us, struggling

for a way forward? The darkness

surrounds us, Creeley sd,

that one-eyed prophet. Drive,

for christ’s sake, look

out where yr going.

Is there solace, wisdom

on offer, barter against

the received platitudes,

perceived attitudes

we see online, on message,

in like-minded echos.

Sadly irrelevant.

“I think you’re going to need

a bigger boat.” Let’s

sail, seek minute

particulars in these

titanic waters.

Shall we dance, eyes

wide shut, hope for

the best of everything

that isn’t? Or maybe

just stand, and deliver.

Paul Wilner is a poet, critic, and essayist. He was an editor at the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and his book reviews appear in The Los Angeles Times and Zzyva.