to Vladimir Putin
No is the place we go when yes has been all used up.
No is waking from darkness, returning to a blessed country from a bad dream.
No is the rhythm of assertion, the hammer of refusal, the long pause before acceptance of the coming battle.
No is the full stop, coming to sense after a foolish year.
No is the extinguished fire, the frame around the picture, the inviolable border.
It is the slapped hand, the hard stare, the nostrils flared.
No is the single syllable growing to a roar, stomping the ridiculous, the insulting, the oppression of the bully and the evil of the rapist.
No is not nothing. When everything has been taken from you, no is all you have left.
No is an affirmation of the right to hold out, the refusal to let go.
No go, hell no, you go, we stay, we want what we want and we want it now.
No is the pile of dust swept out, floors scrubbed raw, skin blistering with the sun of yes-boss said too long.
No is the shade on a summer’s day, the respite of the tired hero.
No is the pause, the re-set, the do-over, the redoubt, the change of direction that is not your yes on your terms.
No is not maybe. No means not ever, no way, not this way, no sirree bub, hit the road Vlad, shut your pie-hole, Donny.
No is not um, let me think about this…. maybe not, I don’t think so.
No is the fist raised. No is fifty million fists raised.
No is the rest stop by the highway where you can say to the driver slow down or I’m hitching a ride with that mean-looking biker dude because he looks safer than you.
No, get your hands off me, Donny, before you lose them.
No is the whole universe except the tiny hands in front of you.
No is everything except what you want from me.
No is simple, and I’m ready to fight you for it.
The buck stops here, buckaroo. See ya later, gaiter. Get out of my country, buster.
No-no, nope, naw, nopety nope, no, hell no.
Goodness gracious, no.
No is the same as yes when hell boils over.
No is the same as never, the opposite of maybe later. Yes is not on the menu today.
No is a black cat in a black room at midnight. Ya didn’t see us coming, did ya?
No is not birds chirping in the morning window. This is not a nature poem. This is a love poem.
No echoes through the halls of my brain when I think of you.
No is the writing on the wall of your castle. Fuck your castle.
No is a sentence all by itself, the answer to the question you didn’t ask because you knew we’d say no.
Uh-uh is not the same as mm-hmmm.
No is not all-righty, righty-ho, or right-as-rain.
Rain is right, but you are wrong.
No is not aye-aye, okay, let’s do it.
Naw nope nopity nope no way Jose, not on your life brother.
No is not, don’t you? won’t you? will you? This is not a Doctor Seuss poem.
No is a phrasillion, a pragmatic holophrase, a complete sentence disallowing you.
No is not si, ja, oui.
No means by no means, not at all, negative, under no circumstances, never, not on your life bub, not on your nelly, nelly, oh yeah right, get your hands off me, get your troops out of my country, no, never, no-go, vetoed, prohibited, off limits, banned, closed down, closed up, boarded up, out of bounds, taboo, verboten, disallowed, uh-uh, thou shalt not.
No does not mean maybe, yes with restrictions, allowed to proceed, open next Tuesday, sanctioned, approved for you and you alone.
No is not nighty-night but nopity-nope.
No is not your mother’s finger wagging, it is a dissident thumb in your eye, a flashing exit sign, a circle with a slash, get out of my country touch my family and I will kill you.
No is not wassup or glad to see ya or maybe later.
No is going in the streets with molotovs for your tanks, no is sending our kids to safety across the border because sucker you are in for the fight of your life.
We say Hell No.
Photo by Misu/Adobe Stock