I wrote this poem in March, 2015, at the time of a hotly contested mayoral race in the city of Chicago. The incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, faced off against Jesus (Chuy) Garcia, who came closer than anyone might have imagined he would. I wrote this in the hope that he could stop the Caesarian, imperial juggernaut of Emanuel. Garcia lost, Emanuel won a second term, and now, in the election season 2016, Emanuel is facing a crisis precipitated by a coverup of police killings and now on the eve of a teachers strike that could dwarf the 2012 strike in significance. So I think, on this Ides of March, which also happens to be a primary election day, the poem is even more appropriate, when racist vitriol is being used to divide further an already historically divided working class; and when a vote for an incumbent state’s attorney is a vote rewarding outright fascism; and when one candidate has introduced into the election vernacular two phrases which I hope will outlive this campaign: billionaire class and political revolution. (This poem is part of a collection, Seed of Revolution, published last July. The chapbook is available for $10).
by Lew Rosenbaum
“I have come to bury Caesar
Not to praise him.”
So spoke Mark Antony
At the great man’s funeral,
And then proceeded to extol
Caesar’s virtues for the remainder of his monologue,
Until he roused the Roman masses
To avenge Caesar’s murder.
Antony ignored the rebellion
Brewing near Galilee.
He could not speak yet of the crucifixion,
Still a half century to come,
Of a poor carpenter, a fisher of men.
Now it’s the day after the Ides of March
I HAVE come to bury Caesar.
Caesar, upon his death,
Bequeathed to each Roman citizen
The sum of seventy-five drachmas.
Our Caesar, fearing the anger of
Chicago workers, dangled a carrot,
A minimum wage raise to thirteen dollars
Per hour in four years.
In FOUR YEARS!
Oh yes. I have come to BURY Caesar.
Our gentle Caesar,
In his penetrating recognition
Of our anxieties,
Pledged to improve our mental health services. . .
By closing half the Chicago clinics.
At the disarray in the public schools,
He wept tears of pure gold
That ran rivulets into the pockets of
His honorable charter school cronies.
Then he crossed the Rubicon,
Embarked on a forced march to
Shutter more than fifty schools.
I tell you
I have come to bury our honorable Caesar.
Had Brutus and Cassius, both honorable men,
Stabbed their Caesar on the South Side of Chicago,
His murder might have been averted,
Or so some Romans say, lamenting his fate.
I say not so, for Chicago’s Caesar
Stood fast opposing a trauma center
Which might have staunched the flow
From those unkindest cuts of all.
I come to bury Caesar,
Not to praise him.
Nor will I lend my ears
To those who sycophate at his feet,
Paint pictures that can never
Obliterate the blood he has let.
I come to bury Caesar.
I come to elect Jésus.