What god or king or demagogue can assure us
that every countryman gets fed,
that politicians be true their word,
that women are afforded equal rights,
that smokestacks will eventually die?
Pouting about the chapter where love lost its way
is the high school teacher whose students
will have to go without physical education
because the budget was cut to the bone.
Those responsible like to tout the good book
claiming they abide by its imperatives
but their actions ooze blatant hypocrisy.
Honor hobos who rode over the divide with bindles
like undead stuffed in filthy rail cars,
like Nixon or Chief Joseph or Goliath,
steel wheels screeching over tracks,
truckers and farmers they passed
waving, giving them a hearty high-ho!
But lo! the fallen warriors have returned,
unleashed from deep graves to roost
upon steep chapel spires, on fire, riddled
in disbelief of the republic’s shocking nosedive.
Accused of being dope peddlers blacks rounded up
and locked in hot jail cells, sweaty
and seething with hatred for the white race,
their rebellion pent up, pockets fleeced.
And in some cities they used pepper spray
on the marchers, while here at home workers
broke and destitute crammed the capitol steps
begging for a livable wage, scared that before
long their jobs will be replaced by robots.
Some day we’ll look back and know why it happened
to the little girl who couldn’t beat lupus,
to the refugee who hid in a basement,
to the accountant who defecated in an alley,
to lakes gone dry or poisoned,
to the bus driver whose house was foreclosed,
to the senator bribed by Russians,
to Zenith, Pontiac, RCA, Blockbuster,
to subways gurgling ocean water.
This land is your land and my land from Tucumcari
to as far as our imaginations can take us.
And feeling highfalutin is the homeless bum
who lights a cigarette beside his tent
camped out by railroad tracks,
alchemical jazz notes ringing in his ears,
cheap steak cooked medium well, out alone
where buffalo roamed under full moons
and the air was fit to breathe. Nowadays
emails battle spam filters, and future history
as if artificially inseminated deduces
there once was a shining city atop an emerald hill
that was vomited as afterbirth of a dead universe.
Armed with Tommy guns loaded and pointed at you
Al Capone’s mob is imbedded in your psyche,
America. You’re the land of inverse justice.
The people recorded, the people sorted, unequal,
and they know it. Millions of your working class
exiled to lives of utter mediocrity, battle worn
prisoners sniveling under the giant thumb
of Dow Chemical and those thug Koch brothers.
Indian Review | Author | Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry and interviews have appeared in Nimrod, Portland Review, Kestrel, Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, Boston Poetry Magazine, Gertrude, The Bacon Review, and many others. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices In Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poems.