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Protest Poem

Because we have mouths. Because we have no
bread. Because of the oil in the water—which is

thicker, apparently, than blood. Ditto money.
Because of the radiation that reaches the mind’s

one, clean eye, that reaches the closed eye of
the fetus in the womb, and opens it too early.

Because we’ve turned over our fair share of rocks
and thrown them too. Hit innocent things hardest.

Because we’ve lost our narrative, all those stories
we told ourselves through the long exile of night.

Because when the light leaves the world,
it leaves like the last good ship leaves

the harbor. Because we slipped off the steep
margin of hope, and took a brief ride in the

ambulance of superstition. Because it cost us
too much. Because we refuse to lose anything

else to the suits that we buried our fathers
in, and because we lay them in their coffins

crumpled as the dollar bills in their pockets.
And because of our mothers, who are dying,

of course, of a kind of sadness they keep locked
away, of a kind of prayer they keep repeating.

Because we were beaten, and we know better.
Because we still bully ourselves from time to time,

between lessons, until whatever rings the sudden
bell and brings us in from that small playground

of the embittered mind—we keep ourselves freshly
bruised because the power of the bruise is all we

know. Because we know that what’s in the milk
is in everything. Because of the woman who was

milked in the street, and did not scream where
anyone could hear her. Because we’ve suffered,

in these ways, and are prepared to suffer in so
many more. Because we brace ourselves, buy

the guns, hand them to our children, and bolster
the doors, instead of ask for safer streets. Because

it happened in our neighborhood. Because it will
happen again. Because of the bees, a fifteen billion

dollar industry, we read so in the paper and now
we know you can put a price on an entire species.

Because the ink comes apart on our fingers and
we know that our bodies, which are failing us

even now, will return to something like that finely
ground newsprint, run on sentence of dust to dust.

Because somewhere overseas, a young soldier
is tying towels together in the showers, ashamed

of the blood in his urine, and because little awaits
him tomorrow except the long noose of plain day.

Because elsewhere overseas, a farmer has closed
his eyes, lain down on his chemical scorched field.

Because somewhere in his system the pesticide
has already begun to break apart his intestines.

Because you know these facts, but you are stranded
somewhere yourself. In America, land of information,

and of plenty, land for you and land for me, is what
they said in a kind of headlock of enchantment,

in a kind of lock and key of dreams and wakeup, 
shine your shoes, go to school to learn about America, 

by God, if not under him, or above—if just snagged 
on his little fingernail, really, or picked clean out

of his perfect teeth. America, hard nugget of truth
we keep digging to find, red pill to swallow,

white pill to swallow, blue pill to swallow,
because we still don’t feel better—Goddamnit.
Posted 10/09/14
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