Note from NB Media Co-op contributor and poet Josephine Savarese: This poem was written on January 6, 2021 (before the arrests and more deaths). On January 6, 2021, an armed and angry mob stormed Capitol Hill as U.S. Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win. Winter Miller, an acclaimed playwright, wrote this poem in response to the events. The political nature of the poem is consistent with Miller’s prior work that addresses topics related to in/justice, including racialized injustice, reproductive rights, and other subjects.
I heard this poem read during an online forum on January 7, 2021. Miller shared her text with us in a gesture of solidarity with independent media and to promote resistance to right wing supremacy and the ongoing racialized injustice endemic across the sacred, unceded Indigenous lands of North America.
Yesterday they had a coup in Washington DC
Yesterday they held a coup
Yesterday a coup
Wasn’t it a capital day for a coup in the capitol?
The coup was attempted.
Yesterday they flew the coup.
A coupe deVille staged a coup d’etat
A coup like that… will kill your brother
Point is: There was a muthahfucking coup in our nation’s Das Kapital.
I’d like to boil it down for you, step by step.
I’m just kidding, do I look like I was on the ground?
My jaw was on the ground. Not because there was a coup—
I saw that coming, we all saw it coming,
I just hadn’t penciled it in my calendar
It arrived earlier than I expected
However the coup was not the surprise.
Not by a mile.
Was it bled into the hallowed halls of Congress
Normally, they don’t let a mob of men in dress-up clothes with
Subscriptions to GunGunGunnyhoney Magazine
Break in with guns.
The surprise was that the cops didn’t shoot people
In the knees or the hands,
didn’t take the weapons out of their hands.
I’m just kidding you, it isn’t a surprise.
The police see white people as people,
The thought of shooting them carries a sense somewhere
This is a person’s life standing before me.
The police see brown people not as people at all, but as animals,
When they turn and shoot a woman or choke a man,
they convinced themselves they are shooting a dog gone mad.
It is much easier to shoot a dog and not consider the consequences
Than look at a man whose white skin demands he be seen as a man and take his life. I am not telling you anything you don’t already know.
Yesterday there was a coup in Washington DC
Yes, I’ll say it again and again, alright now
This coup looked like a crowd of Black Friday shoppers,
Everyone standing outside Walmarts
Waiting for the jaws to open wide
For the stampede of bodies
Grabbing Playstations, Elmos
Trampling on each other.
Yesterday at the coup in DC
These patriots wore red white and trump
Flags and hats, scarves and tracksuits
All the latest accessories in jingoism:
Bulletproof vests, camouflage pants,
Skinny jeans and Maybelline,
Some of these dudes were packing
Actual guns loaded with actual bullets
I’m not making this up
Or this part either
Where the cops stood by
The cops posed for selfies
The cops parted
For the crowd chanting from
The White House
to the Capitol steps
An ouroburos surge
With Don’t Tread on Me flags
A sea of red hats
These manifest destiny
Men and women
In sickly surges
Swarmed the halls
Scattered the Veep
Exiled the Senate
Did I mention the cops posed for selfies
I did, right?
Remember the time the police showed up in riot gear
To stem peaceful protesters
Because Black Lives Matter?
The cops looked on,
Observers of the melee
As these reddened Mad Hatters
Swung from imagined chandeliers
Splintered actual doors
Broke real windows
Scaling the old wooded walls
Of our forefathers
Someone’s forefathers not mine
But America’s four fathers
56 fathers, the declarers
the signers of Hancocks
Now with their hands on their cocks
Fingers on their triggers
A flock of deranged roosters
Storming the castle
Reclaiming their time
Yesterday at the coup in DC
While the cops understood their ground,
If it wasn’t so terrifying
It looked like the scene in Gremlins
When the fuzzies encounter water
After midnight and go berserk
All over middle America’s kitchen
The cops cast an eye towards
The man wrapped in a buffalo skin
Bare-chested and beViking’d
The police posed for photos
While a man wearing a cape
With nonsensical letters: t r u m p
A violent word
Another man in Pelosi’s chair
His legs splayed across her desk
A lipsticked woman in an office
Vaping weed, wearing a flag
Like a superhero would
If superheroes invaded Congress
Only to sit in everybody’s chairs
Like fucking Goldilocks
And get high
The bears were there with their
Big beards, big smiles, big certainty
While the cops misunderstood their grounds
Watching these gleeful scamps
Like they were 8-year-old boys
And this was a Lego convention
And mom said to take what you want
Dad said to smash what you want
Another gleeful scamp of a grown boy
Was caught—but only on camera—not apprehended
Running or escaping (to where)
With a purloined podium
His big dais energy
Capped by his stripey ski hat
With a 45 and a pompom on top
Looking like Wayward Waldo
High on sugar cane
So that yesterday, in DC
At the coup they threw?
The coup with the calm cops
Four people lost their lives
But the president has so much blood
On his hands
He cannot tell
Where he ends
And the bloodshed begins
But he’s stowed away
In Hitler’s bunker
Typing up his selfie pardon
Let this be the last hard on
For violence these patriots get
I know of innocent felons
Low level drug sellers
Who could empty out their cells
For the real criminals
Of the Republican Party
The accompliced Democrats who like to bystand now
And grandstand later
About truth, just us, and the Mandalorian Way
Yesterday at the coup in DC
The cops stirred their coffee grounds
Democracy was a donut hole
The circus that came early and wouldn’t leave
Made a vain attempt in vain with cameras
To bust open the vein of democracy
With a show of brute force
And you know and I know
If they were brown-skinned
They’d have been skinned alive
In a hail of bullets
Eyes peeled back by tear gas
Heads clubbed to pulp
Necks stood on until the expiration date.
Yesterday they had the coup in DC
Nobody broke a nail to shut it down
You and me, we
saw it all ravel on the news feed
One thing these killers didn’t need
Were white robes and ghosty hats.
Winter Miller is a playwright living in Brooklyn, New York. Her opera No One is Forgotten (part 1) premieres online on February 24, 2021.