Sam Witt’s “Occupation Dreamland”

Published in 2012, Sam Witt’s poem “Toxic Assets” is officially a poem of the twenty-first century (the term “toxic assets” itself came into public use very recently, during the 2007 financial crisis). I am including Witt’s poem here because, one, he is a friend of mine and, two, I think it is a fine example of a multidimensional poem that is part protest, part confession, part appeal to the reader.

…like the xeroxed surface of a brook,
Coastal cities simply vanish into the sea.

Among images of global warming, environmental destruction, and corporate greed, Witt cleverly juxtaposes a strange thing: his left eye, which holds secrets and memories, things that are not as easily cast off as, say, a glacier calves a chunk of ice. The real poem, here, is perhaps about what we are forced to keep inside us, whether we like it or not, what toxic assets we are not able to sell and so are stuck with. However, it is also a poem that is not afraid to name names, to shine a light on the worst human activities that are literally causing our world to vanish.

Toxic Assets

Vast forests have already been sacrificed
In the marble halls of the bad bank for this:
Now that portions of the glacial ice have calved to real stone
That hasn’t been exposed for thousands of years,
In the secret history of my left eye, (which, incidentally,
Turns, empty & black, like the xeroxed surface of a brook)
Coastal cities simply vanish into the sea.
The planet’s been knocked off its orbit by half a kilometer,
In here, behind this tiny terraqueous globe, under great pressure,
Where I have stored away the tiny pearl of your face.
If I were the death of ice, I’d calve.
If I were deep waters, the birth of flesh
Would be whispered in overtones of fire.
If I were Corpus Christi, I’d simply vanish into the sea.

One Reply to “Sam Witt’s “Occupation Dreamland””

  1. Mr.reynolds
    P.5 freshman English
    This is a protest poem because it’s talking about how some humans can be cruel to the nature by cutting trees down.this poem makes me feel like us humans can be really cruel and we don’t even realize it

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