If I Was President

If I Was President (“Were” May Be Substituted by Those Who Prefer It)
© 2010 by Alice Walker

If I was President
The first thing I would do
is call Mumia Abu-Jamal.
No,
if I was president
the first thing I would do
is call Leonard Peltier.
No,
if I was president
the first person I would call
is that rascal
John Trudell.
No,
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
Gaza,
& head out to the prisons
where Mumia and Leonard
are waiting for you.
They will be traveling
light.
Mumia used to own a lot
of papers
but they took most of those
away from him.
Leonard
will probably want to drag along
some of his
canvases.
Alice
who may well be
shopping
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.
Tonsillitis
hasn’t stopped me.
Migraine,
hasn’t stopped me.
Lyme disease
hasn’t stopped me.
And why?
Because
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 Oglala, In Prison My Whole Life, Trudell, and Why We Fight.

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