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In equal balance justly weighed

Slouching toward Democracy

Where have all the wise men gone?

By Populist Demand

When urban and rural voters went separate ways


The more refined your concept is,

the more primitive you have to be.”

—Wynton Marsalis


How sharp are your tools when you need them?

Say, quietly entrancing the fence entrance with

what passes for a common gate. Nicking it open,


peeling it back, paring it down to what’s barely there.

Quietly again, with nothing in it but the time taken

to get it right, doing it so the sweat doesn’t show.


Catching latches. Counting on nothing more or less

than organic permission. Smooth moves suspended

across measured space with just enough weight


to shape the balanced distance. Good carpentry

instead of high architecture: how little do you have

to do to nail it? No more than that.


Clearing away the scaffolding; refusing to let

another agenda intrude. Oh, and plan your hinges:

what you don’t know about what you know best.


No more than this.

Bill Howell has five poetry collections, including Porcupine Archery (Insomniac Press, 2009) and Ghost Test Flights (Rubicon Press, 2008). He has recent work in ARC, Antigonish Review, Echolocation, Fiddlehead, Grain, Nashwaak Review, New York Quarterly, nthposition, Toronto Quarterly and The White Collar Book (Black Moss Press, in press).