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Gary Lehmann

Private Lives & Private Secrets

American Sponsored Torture

We Don't Know
What We Don't Know

A Long Poem in Twelve Parts

Gary Lehmann

     In 2006, the United States Congress passed legislation enabling agents of the United States to use what human right organizations describe as torture to obtain information from anyone they deem as harboring information they believe might be helpful to them in the War on Terrorism.   In the past, we have always opposed state sponsored terrorism -- when other countries did it.  Now we have passed legislation to enable torture on our own behalf, and we don't even know where or when it is being conducted.   The government attempted to cover its tracks by redefining the word torture to exclude the practices named in the legislation, but no one has been fooled, least of all those who will suffer physical abuse as a result.

     We blithely accept that there is a War on Terrorism even though no state of war has been declared in contravention of the War Powers Act. How do we ask other nations to treat their people humanely when we use torture ourselves?  The argument for this radical change of policy is that it will protect our rights, but the means used to protect our rights violate what are commonly defined by our Constitution and by International Human Rights Organizations as the basic rights of all people.   This state of perplexing contradiction is distressing enough when it occurs in the traffic laws or in tax regulations.   It is a call to action when it involves the violation of basic human rights.

      American Sponsored Torture is a twelve part poem exploring these issues.   

     Gary Lehmann     Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Gary Lehmann's poetry and prose is published in literary and popular journals all over the world.  He is the director of the Athenaeum Poetry Group at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Rochester, NY and a member of a small but productive group of poets who call themselves Five in the Afternoon.  Their most recent poetry book is The Span I Will Cross [2003].  Public Lives and Private Secrets [Foothills Publishing, 2005] is a book of poems which profile secret moments in the lives of famous people. For updates on recent publications, visit

From the Book:


A big gray bird

A big gray bird is flying overhead in my sky.
It looks very much like a military troop transport,
but it has no insignia, no windows, and no tail numbers.

It is seen near U.S. Air Force bases and flies to foreign places.
It contains detainees who have no name.
They are not arrested or charged.

They are stateless persons without the protection of the law.
They are flying to places that can torture them
without my knowledge or consent.

They are stateless birds which are evidently invisible.  
You'll see them all over the country, near Air Force Bases.
Henceforth, you are instructed not to see them.

American Sponsored Torture is a hand-sewn chapbook - $7.00

TO ORDER  American Sponsored Torture  ON-LINE

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Public Lives
Private Secrets

We all admire great people, but we often don't understand what it is about them that we admire.   Their private lives are hidden in dusty autobiographies which only occasionally reveal an instant which illuminates their greatness in a moment that lasts no longer than the flash of a paparazzo's camera.  
     This book of poems gathers up a parcel of those moments, first in great people's lives and then in the lives of ordinary people, to reveal something of what makes them of interest to us.     

     Each of us has experienced secret moments which have exposed, if only for a heartbeat, our true character.   Sometimes we have hurried away from these naked moments, but at other times, we have had the courage to look at them fearlessly, trying to see what magic alchemy they might hold which can turn them into personal gold.   

     Public Lives & Private Secrets is an invitation to explore the meaning of the secret moments in your life.

From the book:

Cubist Nightmare
Paris 1914

Picasso returned from Spain
     his arms loaded with cubist canvases,
            the best he ever painted.

He filled his apartment on rue Schoelcher,
     relishing walls that shouted out a new vocabulary
                   that explained the way people really live.

But his old apartment house seemed empty and dreary.
     His buddies Georges Braque and Andre Derain
                   deserted him to join the madmen in the trenches.

As if this weren't enough, his only remaining friend,
     Guillaume Apollinaire, joined up too.
          The season of emptiness descended.

Picasso moved to Montrouge
     where there was at least some life
          in the cabarets and coffee houses.

He skulked about like an old man
     sipping cognac and coffee into the late night
          and brooding on the masques of war.

He returned to Montrouge to discover that a thief had
     stolen a bolt of linen cloth he had not yet stretched.
                  The insult hit him like a machine gun bullet.

The world it seemed stood so upside down
     that it could not differentiate a cubist painting
          that explained the whole impending disaster

          from a blank bolt of linen cloth.

Lord Byron Takes a Swim

Shelley's drowning was terrible enough, but
his cremation on the beach was unbearable.  
Soldiers split his skull with a spade
digging the body out of the sand.   

His skin was chalky gray from the quicklime.
The water-soaked corpse took hours to burn.  
The fire was very hot and slow.
Children gathered from the town to watch.

Byron was on edge because he knew that
Shelley had dared the storm only to taunt him.   
He refused to be guided by good sense.
Had he drowned himself just for spite?

Then Shelley's skull split open and
the brains ran out into the upturned
skull plate dancing and boiling in the fire.
Byron could endure no more.
He stripped his clothes and swam into the sea.
If only he had refused stupid competitions.
Shelley's small boat was too fragile for storms.
Lord Byron swam for miles, all alone.

As the cold began to inhabit his chest,
he wondered if he had the courage to drown.  
Did he deserve to live now that Shelley
had found such a heroic end to life?

Byron turned back toward shore.  
More wood was being added to the fire.  
Everyone was bored with burning dead poets.
Lord Byron emerged from a heartless sea.   

Anais made love...

Anais made love all wrapped in irony.
She stroked her lover like a pet boa,
the snake within and the tigress without.

Anais made love in willful uncertainty,
always aware of the tentative touch, the quotable caress,
the trespass between raw nerves and the gift of words.

Anais made love like a cellist,
never knowing for sure whether she was the musician
or the sonorous body that made the sound.

ISBN 0-941053-59-8

Public Lives & Private Secrets is an 80 page hand-sewn paperback with flat spine - $15.00

TO ORDER  Public Lives & Private Secrets  ON-LINE

To order through mail click here.

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