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Spring 2007

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Ford, Hussein, and Pinochet With The River Styx as Their Water Cooler
Chad Parenteau

Pinochet:

It’s so strange, isn’t it?
The better you do your job,
the more you’re ignored
by the bosses.

Ford:

I liked that. The ignored part at least.
I can’t say that the job I was supposed to do
was good work—at least I shouldn’t ever
answer that question—but I did it anyway,
and only wanted a lack of attention
for my silver—or gold!

Saddam:

Every job is a good one
if your superior tells you to do it.
Even go home and die,
though I only learned that one
late in the game
and lost the right to go quietly.

Ford:

Nixon used to tell me that
to practice the skills one needs
when speaking to the American people,
to rehearse speaking in front of an old stove,
and orate to a pile of burning coal.
He did seem to always sweat
before he went out to speak.
If it was ever a joke, no one ever confessed
when I tried it for four years. Ever.

Saddam:

It is your required baptism of fire.
If you are not ready to sweat
while others around you burn,
what kind of leader are you?

Pinochet:

This is why you set fires before
the witch burning starts.
Strike a match, then tell the bitch
to do her worst, bring me more pleas
sewn onto burlap. All the more
that’s flammable to my breath.

Saddam:

Witchcraft, communism, the bodies
we bury have more names
than the ground can hold.

Ford:

Our boat is taking a while, isn’t it?

Pinochet:

Only because I sent the last three
back before you two came around.
I know where I am bound. I did my duty.

Saddam:

What if we’re supposed to go one at a time?

Pinochet:

You’d like my executive express,
wouldn’t you? I’d rather swim.
Would any of you be fit enough
to make your own way?

Ford:

Nixon used to always tell me to stay trim.
In a loud voice, he’d say he lived on
carrots, spring water and small negroes.
I don’t remember if I laughed
because I was nervous or because
I thought it was funny.
If anyone found out, though,
I would have just said nervous.
Right now, I don’t remember.

Saddam:

At least you never had to deal
with his spawn. If only bloodlines of irritation
could be wiped out so completely.

Pinochet:

Sons, daughters, angry wives,
it doesn’t matter. Once you realize
that everyone can be your boss, it is easier
to outlive them all.

Ford:

I sometimes wished for the voices to stop.
Even when I couldn’t hear them.

Saddam:

It takes a strong will to make that happen.

Pinochet:

I would never want all of them gone.
Even someone with a torch for your fortress
counts as an addition to the funeral pyre.

Ford:

I guess we all do our best work
in front of the fire.