you start small
chipping away at civic pride
cutting into budgets to schools, to children and teachers;
erecting gaudy monuments to fire fighters who
died September 11
(but forgetting to insure the ones who showed up that day to help
but weren’t officially on duty);
you turn your head against indignities in veterans hospitals
refusing to see caskets of soldiers
returning from two seven-year post partisan wars against enemies
whose real lives you will never allow yourself
you let your indifference build
into a tsunami
as the floodwaters of the lower ninth ward rise
and people die in the street and on t.v.
but you turn away the survivors in a line that day
a reverse Birmingham March
because you believe their civil rights end at this bridge
into your city limits.
you watch as the last of an American breed,
an old guard, call the first Latina American nominated for the Supreme Court
a racist; sneer at what they see as her
you enunciate the word with loathing; you spit it.
and in your neighborhood people lose jobs in swift waves
but not you or yours. why should you pay so
their kids can see doctors when they run fevers?
instead you learn to deny them. you learn to deny their claims.
what is a jobless recovery anyway?
it means the new welfare queens (the ones who own jets
instead of cadillacs) who are too big to fail (or to be evicted)
made mistakes, but whywhywhywhywhywhywhywhywhy should they pay?
even now, you’re just starting to see the nobodies on t.v.
except for sport or on the news or “look there!”
too small to be noticed, for it to matter when they fail
what does poor look like these days?
well, in California , in 2009, morgues overflow because families can’t afford
to bury their dead. They can just
but don’t look at me with that expression.
your civil rights will not end
at this bridge into
my city limits.