North Korean Traffic Cop & Democracy

by Kirby Olson (May 2018)

The North Korean Traffic Cop
In the first snowfall of the year
The police officer directs nonexistent traffic,
She recites Corinthians 13:8 as
She pulls over clichés,
Stops loose qualifiers,
Halts speeding verbs.
Her pants permanently pressed,
Her hat on straight,
She stomps out evil axioms.
Her shoes shine with the red stars of Communism.
The village stuffed their most beautiful woman into a barrel with spikes inside. The ugly people rolled the barrel down a steep hill.
She died as the crowd chanted: “Equality!”
The incompetent people then grabbed the most competent person, a man with orange flaming hair who ran a hundred businesses and said, “You have the right to remain silent.”
They rolled him down the hill.
“Equality!” They tweeted.
“Equality!  Equality!” He retweeted. Their fury mounted as he mocked them.
Fortitude, virtue, curiosity, foresight, equanimity, insight, temperance, prudence, inventiveness, charisma, were next, in a long line of resentments. After some time, the People switched to a long line of guillotines, as the newspapers and televisions invented new charges and new resentments and the people screamed for equality. Heads rolled! Democracy required vigilance, the People said, lest some think they were better than others. Democracy means that quality must be destroyed in the name of equality, they cried. That’s how it was in Athens. May it continue in Washington, D.C.



Kirby Olson is a tenured English professor at SUNY-Delhi in the western Catskills. His books include a novel (Temping), about an English professor who starts a circus in Finland; a book of poems entitled Christmas at Rockefeller Center; and several books of literary criticism about ludic surrealists. He is currently working on a memoir of his time spent at Naropa Institute studying with Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. He is a Lutheran and a member of AARP.

More by Kirby Olson here.

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1 May 2018
Kenneth Francis
A poem about a North Korean cop directing non-existent traffic while reciting Corinthians 13:8: It doesn't come more surreal than that! It's also timely, as the unthinkable just happened with leaders of North and South (could the Holy Spirit be intervening here?) I liked this poem. As for 'Democracy': There's vague echoes of Nietzsche's 'Parable of the Madman' about it. I liked it; like a Beckett play, it makes you think hard about it.

10 May 2018
Send an emailKirby Olson
Kenneth, your response is charming! I liked your poem Gas Station Sushi, too, and hope that anyone who visits my poems will visit yours. I was especially interested in the last Nietzschean image of the will to power down a lost alley way into the hell of Animal House's Louie Louie. I have no idea what the heck that song was about, if anybody ever did, but the bluesy number holds another lost generation in its sway, as does sushi.

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