No Time Like the Present

Samuel Hazo


            You who believe in the false
               assurances of schedules, the presumptions
               of plans, or the pr0mised future
               of appointments. this poem is
               for you.
                       Today I have nowhere
               to go and nothing to do
               but watch the Mediterranean Sea
               from a seaside table in Menton.
            Nobody knows me here.
            The couples dancing tangos
               in the public square regard me
               as the foreigner I am.
                                 I order
               lunch in unimpressive French
               and sign language.
                          The world
               that pressured me at home
               with phone calls, obligations, bills
               and headlines carries on,
               but I’m not playing.
               I focus on the green and red
               confusion of a Nicoise salad
               while I hurt for an America
               I barely recognize.   
                            In the name
               of Christ we’re Arabizing Arabs
               as we once Vietnamized the South
               Vietnamese before our vanity
               consumed us.
                          We’ve sponsored free
               elections but reversed results.
            To launch the neo-century
               we crushed a country and destroyed
               a culture.
                           Though someone warned
               that occupiers lose at last,
               the warning was ignored.
                                 When scholars
               wrote that Athens at its peak
               sailed fleets to ultimate catastrophe
               in Sicily and bled for decades
               afterward into inconsequence,
               they reaped the glory of derision.
             Why bother talking history
                            with those whose only purpose
                       is deceit?
                          Why reason with unreason?
            When shouters violate what’s sacred
               with impunity, the only answer
               is dissent.
                    Hiding behind
               lapel-pin flags, they’ve fouled
               what I thought would be a holiday
               abroad, not merely a reprieve
               before the next resistance.
            I’ve met them all a thousand
               times whenever fear and cowardice
               demanded loyalty to causes
               that were never mine.
                                 Since power
               is their word for peace, they swagger
               like competitors who can’t not win.
            And when they lose, as they
               will always lose, they’ll claim
               they could have won with more
               support, and then they’ll whine.



Samuel Hazo is the author of poetry, fiction, essays, various works of translation and four plays. Governor Robert Casey named him Pennsylvania’s first State Poet 1993. He served until 2003.

From his first book, through the National Book Award finalist Once for the Last Bandit, to his newest poems, he explores themes of mortality and love, passion and art, courage and grace in a style that is unmistakably his own. He writes with equal feeling and clarity about political and artistic figures and the complex synchronicity between life and art. He is extremely interested in the wonderment and discovery that emerge in the act of writing, in the movement toward wisdom that results from the expression of feeling.

As the founder and Director/President of the International Poetry Forum, Dr. Hazo has brought more than 800 poets and performers to Pittsburgh in the past forty years. These have included Nobel Awardees (Heaney, Walcott, Paz, Milosz), Pulitzer Prize winners (Merwin, Kumin, Wilbur, Kinnell, Kooser and others), Academy Award recipients (Gregory Peck, Princess Grace of Monaco, Eva Marie Saint, Anthony Hopkins, John Houseman, Jose Ferrer) as well as public figures who understand the relationship of poetry to public speech (Senator Eugene McCarthy and Queen Noor of Jordan), playwrights and composers (Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Gian Carlo Menotti) and new poets of significance and promise.

Dr. Hazo is McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Duquesne University. He has received eleven honorary degrees, is an honorary Phi Beta Kappa member, and has been awarded the Hazlett Award for Excellence in Literature from the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Forbes Medal, the Elizabeth Kray Award for Outstanding Service to Poetry from New York University, and the Griffin Award from the University of Notre Dame. His recent book, Just Once, received the Maurice English Poetry Prize.

We are honored to have Dr. Samuel Hazo’s work in Contemporary World Poetry: Journal for International Voices.