Max Huberman - Poetry
©Copyright 1964 Max Huberman
©Copyright 1986 Max Huberman


The Last Caesar
Naturally The Jews                                   
Holiday in Palestine
The Wanderers                               
Two Gentlemen
Take Heed
Defender of the Faith
Morning Paper
Cross Section
Hail to the Chief
The Last Days of Jim Crow
Behold the Poet Purely Lyrical
Poetica Erotica
Harlot Breeze



Gaze on oppression, till at that dread risk,
Aghast she pass from the Earth's disk:
Fear not, but gaze--for freemen mightier grow...


He notes the hearsay, the din of loud debates,
The blended protests, then the stumbling swarm,
The clang and quiver-crash of prison gates,
Like thunder-heralds of the final storm.
He seeks in vain puppets and parasites,
He shouts the dented doctrine or decree
–Yet no one comprehends the royal Rights,
And no man bows his head or bends a knee.
Caesar sits on the tower guarding the chains,
So safe within the knowledge time stands still,
He mumbles canons, all the worn refrains,
The maxims, dogmas, formulas, - until
He joins with other Caesars of the fold…
The high throne greets the hungry and the bold. 



They tell us that the pen
Is mightier than the sword –
            And this may be.

There are poets we are told,
Who make the Caesars tremble –
            I do not doubt.

But sing one song for poets,
Who put aside their words –
            And sometimes chose
To struggle or to die
Not with the noble pen –
            But a sword.


"There are no atheists in foxholes."
                    Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker
                    (Acclaimed hero, World War I)


Once upon a time I watched my buddies in a
    foxhole to find out about atheists,

And I heard somebody’s kid brother explain
    the best way to split a man’s head
    open with a rifle butt,

And I saw a brand new sergeant using his
    bayonet on a trench rat, laughing
            like a little girl,

And I saw a smart joe slowly hoist a helmet
    on a stick and get four bullets
            through his back…
I guess I still don’t know about atheists--
      but I watched my buddies in a foxhole
            and all the Gods were neutral.


A dead youth is a blasphemy against the God
of Life.  No one desires war but a fool or a
madman...we deny the infallibility of the
atom bomb; we affirm the infallibility of the
brotherhood of man the world over.
                                        Sean O'Casey


A Wonderman carefully
Splits a pebble one thousand times
For this is the way
To move a mountain.
An infant trustfully
Sleeps in the valley village
While the Angel Fusion
Draws a breath –
Perhaps to turn the village into
One thousand pebbles.


In the twentieth century war will be dead, the
scaffold will be dead; but man will live...There
will be but one country--the whole earth...and which
our children shall inherit.
                                                        Victor Hugo


These are the lawgivers grouped around
                        the tombstone,

Respectful –
The jugglers of the Peace laying down
                        the wreaths,

Reverent –
The makers of the Plans standing
                        in close ranks,

Silent --
 And only the dead are restless.


"...Hitler and Goerring had ordered the
bombardment of Warsaw and shooting of
Polish Intellectuals, clergy and naturally
the Jews."

        Reuters Dispatch---Sept. 1, 1939
        Nazi Germany Surrenders - May 7, 1945

. . . Hitler and Goering had ordered
the bombardment of Warsaw and
intellectuals, nobility, clergy and,
naturally the Jews’.” 

Three thousand soldiers
Wait in a Brooklyn depot;
Home now
From the charred bones of Belsen
And smoking logs in Leipzig,
Home now
From the choking stench of Dachau
And busy gas vans of Buchenwald,
Home now
From Penig and from Hadamar
And mad skeletons in Nordhausen
A great V sign
Glows in a Brooklyn harbor,
And words:
Stare back at tired, happy faces,
Faces older,
Faces of men who are now home –
Home now from a clash with fascism. 

The charred and twisted bones
Have long been deeply buried,
And now
Fields of big, bright cabbage shine,
Fondly nourished by a new
Strange manure.
The stench has long been gone,
Replaced by clean, fresh winds,
And now,
A hausfrau’s smile lights a faceWell scrubbed with a new
Strange soap.
The many mad, weird skeletons
Have long since ceased to dance,
And now
A pretty maedchen proudly swings
A purse of smooth texture with
Strange tattoos . . .
Boots of many victors march
Through streets cleared of rubble;
March past
A warehouse clean and bulging
With many bloodstained shoes,
Correctly paired;
Neatly sorted down to the size
Of an Aryan child aged one
Three thousand soldiers
Would like to erase forever
All memories
Of hate, pain, death, smells,
Sights of mind itself rejects –

But memories
Persist and grow and live again
Each time the ranting despots
Shout hate – 

Hate for a black-skinned artist
Singing the songs of a free land,
And also
Hate for an earnest cleric
Daring to worship a God of Truth,
And also
Hate for the weary seeking the house
Their sweat and blood alone have built.
And always
Where hate is called on the thinkers,
And hate is called on the toilers,
And always
Where hate is preached to common men
Who sing of peach and brotherhood
The hate makers
Know all the clever methods;
The ancient, easy scapegoat –
Naturally, the Jews.


"...I can feel the sufferings of millins and
yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that
it will all come right, that this cruelty will
end , and that peace and tranquility will
return again."   
                                                Anne Frank

I wander through Jerusalem,
        I wander there alone,
I see the blood of Freedom
        On the sacrificial stone,
I listen for the laughter
        But I only hear the moan.

The sons of Zion gather,
        The Elder now appears,
The ancient words are spoken
        Falling gently on my ears,
I sip the ceremonial wine,
        I taste a million tears.


We die a thousand deaths,
Drown, bleed, and burn;
Our ashes are dispersed unto the winds.
Yet the wild winds cherish the sacred seed.

                                                       Emma Lazarus


Have you ever seen the Wanderers,

That ancient band?

Perhaps you found a bloodstain

Or a footprint in the sand
You’ll only find the Wanderers

Where Caesars stand–

Where all the land is promised,

And there is no Promised Land.


In a restaurant on Lexington Avenue I saw Two
            Gentlemen eating.
They were Big Gentlemen and they looked alike
            but it was easy to see who was
            Number One because the other said
            yessir I believe your’reright sir
            and he said it four times.
And Number One spoke loudly and laughed through
            a beautiful new set of teeth
            that sparkled like the laughter.
And he said listen they can’t scare me with
            their goddamnpicketline why
            they haven’t got a chance.
Number.Two said yessir I believe you’rerightsir. 
He was a very good Number Two.
And Number One said I know just how to handle all
            these troublemakers I can hold out
            long enough to break this strike
            like six months ago you remember
            those five redbastards well it
            sure didn’t take long did it?
Number Two said nossir it sure didn’t take long.
He was an excellent Number Two.
And Number One beat his plate with a fork and
            said don’t forget Public Opinion
            there’s always Public Opinion and
            you better get the ball rolling
            with the work on Public Opinion.
Number Two said yessir I believe you’re rightsir.
He was just a perfect Number Two.
Then Number One laughed loudly and Number Two
            also laughed but not quite so loud.
And they pushed aside the half-eaten dinners and
            ordered ice cream and cake and discussed
            the best spot in town for A Good Time.
Number One told the waiter keep the change and
            buy yourself a fire engine. Number
Two said yes buy yourself a fire engine.
They walked out smoking big cigars and anyone
            sitting where I was sitting would
            have sworn that those Big Gentlemen
            were mighty scared about something.


You tell people living in shanties Jesus
                    is going to fix it up with them by
                    giving them mansions in the skies
                    after they're dead...

You tell people they don't need any more
                    money on payday.

I'm telling you Jesus wouldn't stand for
                    the stuff you're handing out...

                                            Carl Sandburg

You, stirring us with slogan,
Paid seers chanting hymns of prophecy,
Pompous coiners of the catch-phrase,
Take heed:
We, the men of labor
Do not seek to destroy you –
We accept your stirring slogans
And make them our banners.
We, the ever faithful
Do not hope to unfrock you –
We cherish the artful chants
And emulate their themes.
We, the makers of poems
Do not try to unmask you –
We gather your catch-phrases
And give them melodies.


I wish the rent
was heaven sent.
                    Langston Hughes

My landlord is a very pious man,
He bows his head in reference each week,
Singing thanks for some great Golden Plan
That tells me I must turn the other cheek.


"...The poor must know that we love them,
that they are wanted.  They themselves have
nothing to give but love.  We are concerned
with how to get this message of love across..."

                                        Mother Teresa


Last night
Mrs. Grundy hypen Smythe gave a costume ball for
        all the best people at one hundred per
        and absolutely every cent for charity.

Last night
No market no merger no coupon clips no dividend–
        nobody talked shop and everybody helped the
        poor and hold that pose for the Sunday News.
Last night
The grand prize for the best costume didn’t go to
        Nero with the fiddle or Marie Antoinette
        or any of the many oversized Napoleons.
Last night
The winner was the overalls and a miner’s cap
        because that was the cutest and the most
        original costume anybody had ever seen.


"Our Country, right or wrong!",,,The nation
has sold its honor for this phrase and is
drifting, its helm is in pirate hands..."

                                            Mark Twain


                                    Down on The Bowery
if you know the right people you can get
a pint of real smoke for only fifty cents.
                                    This is the Year of
Our Lord nineteen hundred and forty six
So tip the bottle and spill the past.

                                    Down on Wall Street
everybody’s busy and nobody’s drinking
but just the same everybody’s drunk –    

                                    And you might find
someone with a heart of gold like the
biggest hardest nugget you everrsaw . . .



A 1955 ballad inspired by the antics of a local
guardian of public morals.  This was thirty
years before Ed Meese became Attorney
General of the United States.


Hail, Hail, Hail to the Chief of Police,
A Man with a mind that is never at peace.
With a list in his hand he has taken a stand
Determined that “Vice” on the bookshelf must cease. 

So farewell to Faulkner and Hemingway too - -
Caldwell and Maugham are also taboo,
And if A. Conan Doyle ain’t according to Hoyle
We’ll have to scrap Watson and Sherlock Holmes too. 

What of the Army or tales of the sea - -
A book like “From Here To Eternity”?
(Stories of war tell of life in the raw
With dialogue not from an afternoon tea.)
Kipling is ripping but what about Poe?
There’s many a story quite gory, you know - -
And if Mr. Cain follows Mickey Spillane,
Then DeMaupessant must certainly go.
Oh were does he start and where will he stop
Protecting our morals with broom and mop
As he vexes at sexes with normal reflexes,
This superman Censor who once was a cop?
So Hail to the Chief who’s been catching the crooks
And Hail him again for his charm and good looks - -
Let’s have three cheers, a fresh round of beers,
And Hail the new Fuehrer who’s burning the books.



A ballad of the fifties, before the world came to
know about a place called Soweto, a couple
named Mandela, and a minister named
Martin Luther King, Jr.

                        a ballad
Jim Crow, are you ready - -
Are you ready for your doom?
From Maine to California
The People dig you  tomb.
We have counted every lynching,
We have felt you iron hand,
But you couldn’t chain the People
Whose blood has stained the Land.
This Land that we are singing of
Is more than rocks and clay - -
It’s more than measured borders
That change from day to day.
The Land is made of many things - -
The dreams for which we fought,
The fruits of countless labors
That many hands have wrought.
It’s a coal mine in Kentucky,
A playground in New York,
A Union hall in Michigan,
It’s any street you walk.
It’s a tenant farm in Georgia,
A school in Tennessee,
It’s the prairires, hills and rivers
That belong to you and me.
It’s a concert hall in Washington,
A lighthouse off the shore,
An oil well down in Texas
And the corner grocery store.
It’s the stockyards of Chicago
Or any mill in town,
An Alabama courthouse and
The Grave of old John Brown.
This People that we sing of - -
We sing of great and small,
The leaders and the followers
Who struggle for us all.
We sing about the human race,
of mankind everywhere - -
We sing now of the People.
Jim Crow, can you hear?
It’s all who fight for justice
Wherever they may be,
In any land wherever men
Are yearning to be free - -
It’s the countless dark-skinned martyrs
Who triumphed in their pain,
It’s the Warsaw Ghetto heroes
Who didn’t die in vain. 

It’s the noble men and women
On the farms, in mines and mills,
The dark hands and the light hands
With brushes, hoes and drills - -
It’s the thinkers, artist, builders,
And the tillers of the soil,
The Children of the future
And a billion men who toil.
Jim Crow are you ready - -
Are you ready for your doom?
From Maine to California
The people dig your tomb.
We have counted every lynching,
We have felt your iron hand - -
But soon you will lie buried
Beneath our cherished Land.


And every time again and again
I make my lament against destruction.
                            Jevgeny Yevtushenko


His poems were never analytical,
Not a single jingle cynical –
But hunger made him somewhat critical.
Now he waxes most political.



Rose is a rose is a rose.
                Gertrude Stein

Pigeons in the grass alas.
                Gertrude Stein


A rose is a rose is a rose indeed –
Who cares for pigeons in the grass?
A pigeon plants but a meager seed –
I’ll plant mine with Rose, a lass.



The wind comes rippling,
Croons me a love song,
Ruffles my hair,
Brushes my cheek,
Kisses me lightly,
Whispers a promise
And follows me home.


"...Fires were fed throughout the Reich...
Brownshirts reveled in orgies of
                                    Dispatches - 1936
                                    William L. Shirer


There are men
Who cry lights out
And they have
Light is a democrat - -
It will caress
It will show
What should not be
And people will ask
Questions about
How the blood
Of a Malay fisherman,
And the brain
Of a Negro laborer,
And the child
Of a Chinese farmer
Can be
Different in the light
Of Truth
From your blood,
And likewise
From your brain,
And likewise
From your child.
There are men
Who never will like
Any questions - -
And they cry
Loudly - -
They cry lights out.
I tell you
They can never put out
All the lights.
Some, yes, for a while,
But not
All the lights.
Even these words - -
They cannot
Destroy these words
Nor any
There are so many,
Many, many words;
Questions, answers, protests
And more
And all the fires
Built to destroy
All the questions,
All the answers,
All the protests,
Will have to be many,
Many, many fires.
I tell you
There are men
Thank those who build
The fires;
Than those who cry
Lights out - -
And all who cry
Lights out
Must pass.
I tell you
All their fires,
Hasty fires,
Frantic fires,
Make bright flames - -
And in the light
Of these bright flames
You will see
Yes, someone,
Searching, searching, searching…

©Copyright 1964 Max Huberman
©Copyright 1968 Max Huberman