The Rage of George
Rattling of Sabres
The Gods of War
In the Clouds
The Tyrant Flees
Out of Order
Doing the Patriot Act
The Little Prince
Ichor of the Gods
The Price of Peace
Dead or Alive
Across the Border
Summer in the City
Wolf and Jackal
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evening Mr. Secretary." Bernice
Feingold gestures to a seat across the room,
Resumes making notes on a small pad of paper,
Looks up, smiling, “How are you?” she asks gently.
On the dark green couch, hands folded in his lap
Secretary of State Colin Powell shakes his head.
Bernice looks interested and concerned,
“Not too well I see, tell me what’s going on.”
Since December, Proud Powell has been her client,
Coming once a week, sometimes more,
Based upon how well he’s holding up.
He’s not making rapid progress.
“The bastards won’t stop,” says Colin.
“Go on,” says Bernice, voice steady.
“It’s just more of the same, everyday,
No matter what I do, they never stop!”
He leans into the couch, head back, eyes closed,
Bernice observes his thick carotid pulsing.
“Did you try what we discussed?” she asks.
Proud Powell is staring at the ceiling.
“I tried, but they just laughed.” He sighs.
Bernice sees that his chin trembles,
He’s withholding tears, she notes, decides to press.
“And that makes you feel what?” she asks.
He stares past her avoiding her eyes.
She adds, “I’m sure that makes you sad.”
His eyes begin to fill with tears,
He swallows, his chin wrinkles tightly.
He looks into her eyes; she sees
A tear roll down his cheek.
“It makes me sad. It also makes me mad!”
The session’s finally started. "I
Worked hard to get to where I am, a
Black general in a white man’s world, imagine!
Now Secretary of State, I feel lost, as though
My soul left with my uniform.”
Bernice thinks of “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave,
Recalls the tune. Focus, she says to herself.
“We’ve covered some of this before, when
These kind of feelings have emerged. You
Told me the struggle makes you stronger.
Has that changed?”
“No,” Powell responds, “but perhaps I
“In what way? Tell me more,” she asks.
“Well, after years of effort, years of work,
Dutiful and loyal, devoted and true,
I shouldn’t have to work that hard,
I deserve more respect, if not admiration.”
Bernice knows that Proud Powell’s in trouble,
That the Bush gang are macho toughs.
Colin, son of Maud and Luther, succeeded
In the Army, rose in the ranks by
Pleasing white men. Now on equal footing,
He can’t hold his own against them.
How to help this man regain his stature
Without sacrificing his basic goodness?
Bernice asks herself. Fairness
And justice matter to him, more so
Than to the others in the gang. He's right,
It’s all about respect, she decides.
“Can you give me an example, something recent?”
Bernice probes for something she can work with.
“Sure. We were meeting at the White House,
Rumsfeld, Rove, Cheney and I. We
Ordered lunch, I was having a Cobb salad,
I try to watch my carbs.
“The conversation was casual, we’re eating,
And we each ate something different, me my salad,
Rumsfeld, he was eating a sandwich, liverwurst.
Cheney? I can’t remember, he eats weird stuff.
Anyway, the President walks in, nothing unusual,
Sits on the couch, and looks around.
"'What’s up guys?' It’s his happy voice,
You never know what you’ll get when he walks in.
And then Rove, I still can’t believe this, says,
‘We’re eating lunch, sir, me, roast beef,
Don’s having liverwurst on rye, and Colin
It’s Cobb salad. They ran out of watermelon!'"
“And what did the President do?” Bernice inquires.
“He laughed, of course…they all laughed.
And so did I.” Proud Powell stands up
Walks to the window, and back turned
Continues talking. “I’ve laughed along
At racist jokes like that my whole career.
“When I was a recruit, they called me Zulu Congo.
I laughed along. As General Powell, the
Joking stopped, perhaps it was the stars.
Now it’s back, and I just grin and shuffle.
I’ve been placating whites so long
My Uncle Tom is automatic.
“And then I get depressed,” he says.
“I’ve succeeded in the face of bigotry,
Overt discrimination, racist white men.
Despite it all I rose up to the top.
After the war in ‘91, I could have run
For President, myself.”
Bernice considers a suggestion; his honor
His sense of duty’s so ingrained, it’s killing him.
He needs to be respected but he
Also needs to please. “What do
You think would happen if you got mad,
Said ‘I don’t appreciate your stupid joke'?”
“How about ‘Fuck you, asshole?’” blurts Colin,
Smiling for the first time this session.
She says, “Why not, what could happen?
Seriously, Colin, you can’t go on like this,
Bottling things up, collapsing in depression.
They can’t take your success from you.”
“There’s more,” says Colin, back on the couch.
“This one’s hard for me…I’m embarrassed.”
“You know you can trust me,” Bernice leans forward.
“I know,” he says, “but this is difficult.” He sighs.
“My sex life sucks.” He looks sad.
“I can’t get it up. Nothing helps.”
A man emasculated, ridiculed, demeaned,
Often somaticizes his psychological condition;
The mental becomes the physical. Bernice
Is not surprised. Viagra cures
The symptoms not the cause. She's
Unwilling to stoop to easy solutions.
“The link is clear, I think you know that too,”
She looks straight into his eyes. They stare
At each other in silence. Finally, Bernice
Says that his time is up, it’s a good place to stop.
“Let’s talk about this more next time,” she stands,
“Meantime, keep taking your Paxil.”
The Secretary stands tall, almost at attention.
He nods his head, turns toward the door.
His hand upon the knob, he stops.
“One last thing,” he walks back to Bernice,
“I hate watermelon,” he says, smiling,
Turns and closes the door behind him.