Monday, October 16, 2017

Robert Cooperman


When I crossed into Canada in 1968,
our bus was stopped at the border:
valises, knapsacks, and duffel bags
searched for drugs, for false bottoms
to hide money, for those kids
who’d no intention of going back.

In Montreal, I checked out a coffeehouse
of draft dodgers playing chess, reading,
whispering strategy, glancing over shoulders,
as if fearful if they made too much noise—
like in libraries—they'd be thrown out, scooped
up by the draft like strays by dogcatchers.
Conversely, they wore the hollow look of exiles,
who can never see family, friends, lovers again,
never breathe the dirty American air they loved.

So I left and came home.

Now, watching the Charlottesville riots,
neo-Nazis beating counter-protesters,
a crazed Klanner plowing his car into a crowd,
killing a young woman, wounding scores more,
I email an old friend who worked in that college town
and retired there. I ask how he is: seeking asylum,
he said, in Toronto, making his way from Nova Scotia.

"You should get out too," he advised,
"while you still can," paranoia a sane response,
ever since the early morning of November 9th.

Gerald So reads "When I Crossed into Canada":

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Cooperman confesses: "I emailed a friend in Charlottesville, to see if he was okay in the wake of the riots. He replied that he and his partner were in Prince Edward Island, on their way to Montreal to seek political asylum. That brought back memories of when I went to Montreal in 1968, not for political reasons, though the two times now seem frighteningly similar."

ROBERT COOPERMAN's latest collections are Draft Board Blues (FutureCycle Press) and City Hat Frame Factory (Aldrich Press). In the Colorado Gold Fever Mountains (Western Reflections Books) won the Colorado Book Award for Poetry.

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