Hail the Rebellions of the Arab Spring!
The Arab Spring has amazed and inspired the oppressed people of the world. And it has struck fear into the big imperialist powers. These are the regimes that world imperialism has relied on, along with Israeli zionism, to keep the Arab masses down. Now the uprisings of the Arab working people have overthrown two local tyrants, Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt, and are tenaciously battling Saleh of Yemen, Ghadafy of Libya, Assad of Syria and the monarchist princes of Bahrain.
The victories in Tunisia and Egypt were only partial and the Arab rebellions have run up against powerful obstacles. World imperialism, led by Obama and the U.S., seized the moment when Ghadafy had almost crushed the Libyan protests to stick its greedy hand into the fray. Assad is butchering the Syrian people, civil war looms in Yemen, and Obamas friends the Israeli zionists are shooting down Palestinians asserting their right to return at the borders of Israel. Indeed, the sanctimonious Obama even kisses the blood-drenched hand of the Bahrain monarchy as it prosecutes medical personnel for treating the protesters it has shot.
But the ordinary Arab masses, showing incredible courage, continue to fight poverty and tyranny.
The destruction of even part of the apparatus of the tyrannies that have ruled the Middle East is an important ethical and democratic advance. Only yesterday Egyptian workers could be instantly disappeared, tortured and murdered; in one sense this is their civil rights movement. But not only that. Just as, in the U.S., the civil rights movement and the Black rebellions cleared away some of the racist restrictions and oppression of the Black masses and led to a growth of workers' struggle in the auto plants of Detroit and among postal and other workers around the country, so too in Tunisia and Egypt the defeat of the tyrannies has cleared some ground for the advance of the workers' movement and for a flowering of political activism by the people. Since the 60s the Black workers in the U.S. have faced daunting setbacks, and the Arab workers, too, will face a difficult road, but the Arab Spring is creating some dramatic openings.
Mass battles against police and thugs and widespread strikes brought Mubarak down. And the downfall of his tyranny though the army remains -- has led to a ferment of ideas there, as the masses, now able to express themselves more openly, search for the way forward. Class issues will come more to the fore in the struggle over what is to come next. Socialist groups are openly producing and distributing literature. A new union federation in Egypt is not only trying to unite the workers more closely but is advancing ideas of eliminating capitalism and replacing it with workers' rule, that is, with socialism.
The struggles of the Egyptian and other Arab peoples has inspired struggle in many countries, sending sparks of encouragement to Greece, Spain, even to Wisconsin. They have also shown how bitter a struggle the workers must prepare for. Let us learn from these struggles and fan those sparks!
By Tim Hall
When didn't you know it, poet?
(A question for Amiri Baraka)
Wordmaster, AB, Gregory Hines once
Went on stage and kissed Sammy Davis
Taps. If ever I get there, Ill perform the
Poetic equivalent, because in my pantheon
Of Mingus, Miles, Max, Bird, Trane,
Wayne, Nina, Sass, Abbey, Jimmy
Baldwin, Richard Wright You, AB,
Are the father, son and holy-ghost
Of us post-Langston, Sterling poets,
The syn-tactical surgeon who sutured
Our severed tongues, with precision
Pen and atomic tenor, real smart
Bombs we dropped in our war on
Black bourgeois, corporate-controlled,
Government-guided, attack-Negroes like
Uncle Roy, The Men of Steele, Shelby and
Michael, Long Dong Silver, AKA, Thom-Ass,
Clarence, Clarence Pendelton, Ward Connerly,
Colin Powell and them imperialist Rice wenches .
But, Poet, howd you slip on Iceberg Slim?
Howd you start snarling, growling, guarding
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue like a junkyard dog,
Muzzling the movement and protecting the
Bagman transferring trillions to Wall Street,
War Profiteer, Pharma, Agribiz, Oil-igarch,
Insurance mobs, uh, Reagan redux on roids?
Was it his cool middle-class mantra?
Or, cause Slim didnt come Superfly --
Gold-plated cane, fur coat, big hat, talkin
Slick, like Tony and Goldie, bout making his
Handlers so much money that their pockets
Would look like they have the mumps?
Poet, when didnt you know it?
From the git, it smelled like a pack of
Senators wind-surfing on raw sewage,
With Candidate Slim huddling for bailout
Hanky-panky with Hank Paulson,
Candidate McCain and Osama Ben Bernanke
Poet, when didnt you know it?
No wait for a gate, when Slim kept
Warlord, Bomb Gates, on from Ws crew --
But, then there was Skippy-Gate,
Harvard Professor arrested in his
Home, then invited by Slim to the
Big House for beer with the arresting
Officer. We waited with bated breath,
Figurin as slick as Slim is, he jus might
Invite families of Sean Bell and Oscar
Grant for a Big House keg and concert:
Newt Gingrich Sings Gershwin, a cappella.
Poet, when didnt you know it?
Iceberg made his bones first day on the job,
Whackin a couple Somalis called them pirates.
Poet, when didnt you know it?
Icebergs brass-balled triangulation, juggling
Three wars, picking up a peace prize, torpedoing
Copenhagen with clean coal and nukes: priceless.
Poet, when didnt you know it?
Neon signs in Guantanamos windows flashing OPEN,
As Slims surges, and more drone strikes than eight
W years seem to scream, Hey, Poet, judge me not by
The color of my skin, but by content of my character!
Poet, when didnt you know it?
Amerikkkas a crime scene --
Yellow tape stretching Maine to Florida,
San Diego to Seattle, Great Lakes to Gulf,
Would a Warlocks incantations one January
Morning, presto, magically CHANGE it?
Poet, when didnt you know it?
Reckon two decades of glorious struggle,
Mastering marches, mass meetings, sit-ins
Teach-ins, boycotts, picket lines, voter
Registration and armed self-defense, taught us
If there is no struggle, there is no progress?
Poet, you know it: criticism and self-criticism
From back in the day, when some of us toted
Origin of The Family, Private Property And the State
Like valuable vinyl, Kind of Blue, Sketches o Spain,
While waiting as you went through that kooky,
Kawaida-Karengatang-thang, attacking Panthers
And the revolutionary trend
But, you came back!
Making Maoist mumbo-jumbo of the united front,
Confusing the revolutionary struggle for democracy,
But, you came back!
Yeah, Poet, I been hoping, praying and wishing for a
Wet, cold Wikileak, waking you from the Warlocks
Spell, wrenching you, snatching you from Iceberg Slims grip
In his Prison Poems, Ho Chi Minh said, the
Poet must also know how to lead an attack --
Hurry, Poet, hurry, Ive been waiting for you!
By Raymond Nat Turner
Doing time in Folsom State
Sleep slips away like tendrils of fog
before a Lompoc Valley breeze; a morning
sun dawns upon another moonless night.
I amble aimlessly, wandering twisted corridors
inside a convoluted mind seeking the solace
of an earthly slumber, yet find myself lost
amidst the wreckage of yesteryear: a Bermuda
Triangle existence where disappearing smiles
vanished without ever leaving a trace
upon a heart hardened by aloneness.
The passage of time mocks me as I search
for my truths, though I dread their discovery.
Thus, I find comfort in lies: origami constructs
of paper figurines dancing in the funeral pyre
like marionettes dangling from a hangman's noose.
By Arvan Washington III
A foot-job in prison
Visiting the Mark W Stiles Unit
of the Texas Department of Correction
the girl slipped off her
and put her toes into the mouth
of the grinning yard-boss in straw hat.
Her boyfriend was found dead
of natural causes, under a haystack.
By Wm. Meyer
Behind granite rock
Where the prison clock
Strikes woe to man's liberty,
Its solemn toll
Grips each soul
Where air is no longer free.
In the cloistered womb
Of each cell tomb,
To the tune of a splashing mop,
Burns each bitter tear
From society's tsar:
The conniving Dirty Cop.
His badge is worn
On a chest of scorn
Echoing his doughnut soul.
While a pillar of lies
Frames his amoral eyes,
Corruption his daily goal.
A quick silent mode
Is his security code
Should truth expose his slop.
Yet many a cell
Holds a man in hell,
At the bidding of the Dirty Cop.
By Richard Mahoney
Lined up like medieval knights
five fully armored Darth Vaders
stand outside my cell door;
nobody wants to talk, my
reasons are meaningless; actions
speak louder than words
they spray chemicals into my cage;,
my eyes burn; tears blur my vision;
my throat constricts; I feel like
I am choking to death;
my steel door crashes open;
1200 pounds of brutal justice
charges in without mercy:
some of us die, some only
lose a few teeth, or get
a couple broken bones;
the protectors of society
have squashed my pitiful revolution,
they slam me to the hard floor;
through the anger and the pain
I lie there and I wonder
but who protects us
By Timothy Baker
I've seen his victims, like sad clowns
their faces black, blue and purple
and one so ugly they carried him
out on a stretcher with a
sheet covering his face;
he wears his Sgt. stripes around
prison like a Get out of jail
I write to Uncle Sam please
help me. But I get no reply; I
pray to God... Please I
am too young to die but when
I open my eyes Sgt. Paul Taylor
is standing at my door, stalking me
like some sadistic Andy Griffith
waiting for me to make a mistake:
I write the warden; I beg the chaplain
but they laugh. Stuff like that
doesn't happen, they say with a
telling grin, so
in desperation I take a
They beat me near to death;
they starve me; indict me
and trash all my property
but all of a sudden
they find the evidence needed
to fire Mr. I'll Kick Your Teeth Out
and I think Jesus I'm
too old for this shit!
By Timothy Baker
115865 Hughes Unit, Rt. 2, Box 4400, Gatesville, TX 76597
Take this time
to delve into this interior
known as the mainline
where us convicts aren't inferior
to this man with a badge
who assumes he's superior
to the prison mass
due to his employment criteria.
He's obsesses with his power,
possessed by his stripes,
but an actual coward,
his rank reveals his fright.
He works for eight hours,
then returns to his residence;
once he steps out of that tower
he's passive and reticent.
He tries to take advantage
of convicts' vulnerabilities
with weapons brandished
at men with no artillery.
He's went as far as to famish
those who challenge his tendencies,
but the strong he can't manage
to conquer our virilities.
He roots for us to crumble,
this identity crisis guard;
every day as he grumbles,
ranting that he's in charge.
He's furious, we're not humble
and our pride can't be scarred.
He's provoked us to rumble,
now his blood leaks on the yard.
By Marcus Naggles
Pelican Bay Sate Prison
PO Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95532
Mississippi let my people go
I'm a changed man but only because I strived to...
85 per cent of my life I been lied to...
The other 15 per cent Shit,: I lied too...
You wanna know what Mississippi did to cultivate the youth...
It was written and I read it, let me show you the proof...
My homie Gee killed a man because he murdered his mother...
The same night Mr. Jones shot and killed his lover...
Now from the preface of the two all is seen is the crime...
So when the judge gave them life, he sent them to Parchman long line...
to serve some hard time, and Gee was only 20 years old...
with dreams of being a doctor, God bless his soul...
Mr. Jones was up in age, he was 50 years old...
and after 15 years in prison, he was granted parole...
This is where the game gets cold, Gee was still on lock...
and they say he'll be 65 before he's released from the Box...
That's when my heart stopped, and my conscience started saying:...
Same crime, same time, what is Pharaoh's plan?...
Mr. Jones came home, why they holding my man?...
Read the Truth-in-Sentencing law, and see what I'm saying...
I think the plot's against the youth, Nimrod had the same plan...
The Solution is Revolution, Let's unite and take a stand...
(Truth-in-Sentencing Bill, Section 47-5-139(1)(A) Miss. Code)
s/n John Williams
PO Box 4217
Meridian, MS 39307
May every peeper understand
That I am not a prophet and
I've no subtle creeping plan
To deceive my fellow man
Truth is what a good heart seeks
And dearly all I know to speak
But often I have strongly tried
To keep the heart and head inside
Shut without a bitter pride
But pain and anguish overrides
Steaming up and bursting through
All restraint the heart once knew
Thronging paper's avenues
Word and rhyme a marching cruise
Loading gun and lighting fuse
What else could a hurt heart choose
I could drink and I could smoke
Cite a rhyme or tell a joke
Walk the woods, and there's some ease
But with a woman I am pleased
Yet the system now in place
Controls the soul of any face
My heart squirms across the nation
Aching to the deprivation
Wishing I had fifty more
Men like I that would adore
Tearing down oppression's tool
To let the good of people rule.
New world order taking shape
Expressions bearing subtle capes
Puppeteers and puppetry
High-tech squandered privacy
Am I false, am I misleading?
Is the thought I'm sometimes bleeding
Shhh I tell myself but I
Cannot hush to ache and cries
Wake up, get the flame and throw it
I am back the angry poet
Who's to blame, where's the wand
White House, mob or Pentagon?
Someone knows but most are quiet
Fear with fear they often buy it
But I like some in history
Will take it as no mystery
Knowing well what growls and roars
Secretly behind closed doors
Shhh they hint but I shall not
Stop the flame far less than hot
For peace and love and sanity
And all that is humanity
Needs a shining blatant voice
Brave with every word of choice.
By William Burrell
All I got to share my thoughts is this paper and pen...
I've embarked upon a conviction with the desire to win...
I done struggled through the gutter trying to achieve an end...
And it's hard to decipher who's your foe or your friend...
So if you fail for the Cause get up and try it again...
I ain't preaching but this my attempt to help you save you Soul...
So if they hate me for the truth, remember the truth was told...
Politicians are Willie Lynching to maintain control...
The games they play ain't new, they just revising the old...
But I'd rather die and shed bowls of blood...
before they justify their crimes against our kids, saying Guns and Drugs...
A lot of people think I'm bitter because I write about the Struggle...
But if I don't do it, the common man probably never recover...
Some workers can buy a Benz, and think that life is great...
I hate to shatter those workers' faith, but the Capitalist own States...
And I ain't racist, we all one people and we catching it equal...
Poverty's spreading like a ocean through these streets,
I see the shadow from deep...
Before the Dick slipped in the Bush, gas prices were cheap...
I got a call from Africa, and she hadn't ate in a week...
Even though her daughter Diamond, making mill's in these streets...
The new dance is Victory but you can't do it till it's done...
Hold your pen like this and watch the Capitalist run...
By Lumumba Shakur
s/n John R. Williams
The land was in his family for years
It was earned with blood, sweat and tears
Then the courts passed a law one day
Said, the courts could take this land away
The rich man says, we need this space
We'll build some condos all over the place
They give to the rich what's taken from the poor
The rich man deserves the money more
Wall St. takes our retirement funds away
The Social Security we've paid in day after day
They need our money, they have the powers
It belongs to them and was never ours
We fight a war to free a heathen land
They send our children to lend a hand
They're not rich so they're not entirely free
The Army is where they deserve to be
Our children have not the money to go to college
Therefore they cannot increase America's knowledge
Send them to war where they may die
The rich get richer, poor mothers and widows cry
We strive the American Dream all our years
The courts spit on our blood, sweat and tears
The poor man's dreams are all thread down
For the poor man is America's Clown
By Morris Smith
Rt. 2, Box 2250
Palestine, TX 75882
To Amin Swessis Corporate America
We are encoded
By the bar-coded
For whom we voted.
A dream deferred
"Iz dis it?"
Keyshawn slipped his hand into his pocket. His fingers groped around inside, but he didn't find what he was looking for except a set of house keys and a book of matches; he checked his rear pocket. A torn sheet of scratch paper protruded from the open slit of jeans. He pulled it out. The letters written across the sheet of paper were barely legible, but he was still able to make out the words. The information provided a home address along with a brief description of a car.
Keyshawn glanced up and read the sign illuminated by a street lamp.
Keyshawn folded the sheet of notepaper and slid it back into his pocket. "Yeah, dis it," he answered.
Placed at the edge of each driveway was a black metal-frame mailbox with the set of white numbers printed across the side. "1221," Keyshawn now counted under his breath. "1225...1229...1233...1237...124-" He pointed his finger at the front yard of 1241 Rockwell Boulevard. "Der it iz."
A sports-luxury vehicle, a Monterrey LX500, sat undisturbed in the driveway. The black two-seater had a low narrow body equipped with customized features such as a diamond-gloss platinum chrome grille, a sliding sunroof, and platinum alloy chrome wheels.
The neighborhood appeared to be asleep.
Keyshawn turned toward his partner, Will, and shook his head. Then, he listened for any suspicious sounds. He only heard the faint buzzing of electrical current running through the streetlights from above and the rumbling of the motor generating heat into the pool in the back yard of 1205 Rockwell Boulevard. He also detected a few other random sounds such as a dog barking, a gate lock rattling between its hinges, and an engine from an airplane propelling across the sky; but there were no immediate threats. So he stepped to the lip of the curb and surveyed the neighborhood.
The 1200 block of Rockwell Boulevard consisted of twelve houses which stood respectably on each side of the street. The homes themselves were quite simple: a two story house with a wide rectangular porch, a medium-sized garage, and a small, manicured yard, which parted in the middle with a walkway. Many of these homes weren't all that luxurious in design, but they appeared to be suitable enough for the average working-class American.
"I need ya' to stand ova dere," Keyshawn pointed at the light pole across the street in front of 1234. "Holla if you see anywon."
Will crossed over to the opposite side of street and stood underneath the street light. The yellowed light glared dimly exposing the full rim of his lips, his black-and-white Yankee cap, and the cubic zirconium pinned into his left ear. He primarily watched for people that might appear or any cars that might show up, but no trouble came, so he pulled the brim of his cap over to the side, leaned his back against the pole and stuffed his hands into his pockets.
Keyshawn backed away from the curb, eluding the yellow glint of a street light, and stood beside a tree on the lawn of 1201. He prompted himself with a slow, starting step, and then he sprinted. The blood lagged into his legs, which at first, caused him to waggle through his first set of steps with his shoes swooshing through the ankle deep grass. Not long did it take for his speed to climb, pulling his momentum forward. The crisped wind whipped across his face, sucking the moisture from his eyes as he fielded across the yards of 1209, 1213, 1217, 1221, and 1225 Rockwell Boulevard. But when he reached the front yard of 1229, he felt a sharp pain in his chest. The passageway to his lungs became constricted, and he began wheezing and coughing up his breaths.
I need to stop smoking, he realized.
Keyshawn stopped abruptly. He swooped down into a kneeling position and crawled into the casting shadows beside the house of 1233. He listened. The wind limped, waning to a whisper. Now, all he heard was the monotonous lull of his own breathing and the tumbling roll of a plastic trash bag caught in the light breeze.
Cluk! Clamp! Clak!
Keyshawn sought out the noise again and found it to be a grunt from a door. His eyes traced along the home of 1237 and watched as the front door pulled back, and the screen door pushed open, smacking against white and green weatherboards of the house. A young black woman walked through the door. She was comfortably dressed in a gray and blue West Campbell University sweatshirt and a pair of black denim jeans. "Mom! Dad!" The woman yelled out with her back to the street, "Hurry up. I'm leaving."
Neither parent came to the door, so the woman reached down to untangle the shoe strings of her pink and white cross-trainers. She crossed the laces over, tied them, and stood up again.
Keyshawn dropped into a crouch and lurked across the gap between the houses of 1233 to the front yard of 1237. Then, he sank behind a low bed of bushes. Convinced he was safe there, he rose to one knee and cautiously brought his head up to watch.
The woman still faced the doorway. "Mom! Dad! She yelled again into the house, but there was no answer, so she flicked some of the dreads that hung beside her ear. "I'm ready."
wanted to move closer, so he crawled toward a spot behind an iron pedestal and a large weathered stone-finished Buddha statue. His movements shuffled with the faint passing of wind as he tucked himself behind the pedestal and then craned his neck over the side of statue to watch.
The woman's parents finally stepped through the doorway of the house. They were dressed in silk silver-and-gold sleep wear with their arms clutched around each other. "So when are you coming home again," the woman's father asked.
"Dad, we discussed this before at Auntie Candice's house. My field team is flying to southwestern Peru to study the recent activity in one of the volcanoes over there. By the time we gather enough data and research, the semester will probably be over with, and who knows, I probably won't have enough time to hang around here because the fall semester will have already started."
"Well, in that case, can you at least try to stay for another day? Your grandmother will be pleased for you to visit her again." The woman's father read the reaction on his daughter's face and grinned. "Okay, okay, you're right. I'm not too wild about the woman either, but this is your spring break. And you have four days left before your return to school. Can't you relax until then?"
The woman slouched, then rolled her eyes. "I am relaxed," she replied, "but dad, I'll be all right. I'm going to try to write to you when I can."
"All right, honey, just be careful. Call us as soon as you get there."
The woman turned and walked up the landing of the porch. "Okay, dad, she said and took a step down. I will."
"Honey, wait." The woman's father lowered his arm from his wife's shoulder. "We need to tell you something."
"What is it now?"
The woman's father walked up to the handrail. "I know that school and work are creating a lot of stress," he placed his hand on his daughter's shoulder, "but just remember that we're proud of you."
The woman spun around. A grin blossomed in her face. "Thanks, dad," she rose up a step to hug her father and then reached over to kiss her mother on the cheek. "I will talk to y'all later."
"Okay, and don't forget. We love you."
The woman descended the flight of steps and walked over to her four-door Honda sedan parked in the driveway. She opened the door, sat herself down and reached her arm over for a suitcase lying in the passenger seat. She pulled back the metal zipper and peeked inside. Everything had been packed, so she closed the door and stuck the key in the ignition.
The car's window rattled from the music blaring through the front and rear speakers. Keyshawn couldn't understand the muffled lyrics juking through the windows, but it sounded like pop music with a leading female vocalist.
The woman backed the Honda out the driveway and into the street. She honked her horn, making a final good-bye, and drove off.
Her parents waved and then went back inside.
Keyshawn heard the front door shut and then someone securing the top and bottom locks.
The neighborhood was silent again.
Yet, Keyshawn remained still. His eyes focused away from the house of 1237 and followed a path leading up to the driveway of 1241 where the Monterrey sat under the faint glimmer of the moonlight.
Keyshawn lifted to his feet and strode across the remaining length of the yard of 1237. He softened his steps once he tracked along the aisle of concrete of the driveway. He knelt beside the driver's door of the Monterrey, then he slid his hand underneath his shirt and pulled out a long, thin-metallic bar called a slimjim.
To unlock the door from the outside, Keyshawn needed to attach the notch on the slimjim to the lock rod between the window and the weather stripping of the door. He had very limited space to use to penetrate the crease in the window, but he controlled the trembling in his hands and slid the slimjim inside. The metal bar rustled around, thudding against the springs and the glass inside the door. Then, he heard a click.
Keyshawn yanked up.
A small scratch appeared on the lower corner of the window where the slimjim had missed.
Keyshawn tried again. He widened the space between his fingers and squeezed. The sweat filled the small etched lines in his palms as he used the weight of his shoulders to steady the slimjim down into the window.
"Shyt," Keyshawn's fingers slipped causing the metal bar to bend back against the door and trigger the alarm.
The car squawked as its front and rear headlights flickered. Keyshawn hadn't quite panicked yet, but it was difficult for him to concentrate, so he twisted his neck over his shoulder and glanced down the street.
Where was Will?
A white glare, perhaps from a reading lamp, had suddenly clicked on. Keyshawn turned his eyes up to the second floor window of the house of 1241 and could feel the danger mounting as he watched a shadow slowly rise from the bed.
Keyshawn had no time to decipher his thoughts. He pulled the slimjim out of the window, retreated from the door, and then crouched behind the rear wheel of the car. He glanced up at the window again.
The curtains had been drawn back. A middle-aged man with a white mottled face and a brown, stubble beard was staring though the small space between the curtain and the corner ledge of the window.
Can he see me, Keyshawn wondered, but he quickly realized he was dressed in all-black, and he had pocketed himself underneath a cast of shade beside the rear bumper of the vehicle.
The man withdrew his head from the window. The curtains dropped back into place, and the reading lamp clicked off.
Keyshawn, now relieved, kneeled and scrambled beside the door. He raised the slimjim above his head and came down, stabbing the bar into the window. He jiggled the slimjim back and forth until he felt he had a hold on the lock. He yanked up.
The lock popped.
Keyshawn stuffed the slimjim underneath his shirt, pulled back the door and crawled into the driver's seat.
The inside of the car offered very little light; however, Keyshawn managed to pull the lever underneath the steering wheel, which popped the hood. He made a quick peek at the house to see if anyone had come out. No one had, so he jumped out and ran to the front of the car.
Keyshawn lifted the hood.
Keyshawn ran his eyes along the battery, then the engine and back to the battery. He reached into his other hip pocket and pulled out a small, black leather case. Inside the case were a screwdriver, some pliers, and a mini-flashlight. He crammed the flashlight into his mouth, aiming the light beside the engine, then set the case on top of radiator, and dropped his hand into the pocket of space between the engine and the battery. His fingers riffled around the three wires that ran into the battery coils. It didn't take him too long to find the right wire that disabled the alarm, which he cut with the pliers.
The alarm suppressed and the streets muted into sudden, deafening silence.
The easy part was over, Keyshawn thought.
Unfortunately, unlike what is seen in the movies, Keyshawn could not just jump into the driver's seat, break into the ignition key with a screwdriver and drive off like any typical American model.
Nope. This was a Monterrey LX500, a foreign-made model equipped with state-of-the-art technology. This only meant to Keyshawn that he needed to hot-wire the car from an access point beside the engine right below the alternator.
Keyshawn switched the pliers for the screw driver, which he used to fire the starter. The engine cranked, misfiring twice before turning over in a low throttle.
Keyshawn smiled, then he placed everything back into his case, shut the hood, and ran back to the driver's door. He readied himself for his final act as he hopped into the driver's seat.
He had to unlock the steering wheel.
The interior of the car, like the steering wheel, the dashboard and the instrument panels, were made up entirely of a sophisticated brand of plastic, easy for Keyshawn to break into. He simply pushed the screwdriver into the center of the steering column, causing it to snap, and pulled the wheel up, releasing it to move.
Keyshawn slid his leg inside the car and closed the door. He scrunched down, hunching his knees up against the bottom of the steering wheel, and kept still. The wind pounded against the windshield with a handful of leaves skittering across the roof. Then, a dim glare of light from the porch of 1241 struck through the car's window and shimmered across the tip of the wheel, revealing the bulge of his knee.
Keyshawn stuffed his legs below the steering wheel and shifted his body around, pressing his cheek against the seat. He listened. He could hear a soft clacking of a door opening and then a pair of some flip-flops smacking against the wooden boards of the porch. He allowed a moment to pass before he mustered the courage to peer up.
A short, slender man with pale-olive skin stood on the shadow recess of the porch. He wore only a royal blue house-robe and a pair flip-flops with the back of his slightly greying head covered with a black yarmulke.
Keyshawn remained still.
The man walked to the banister where he rested his hands over the railing and leaned over. The grogginess from a broken sleep colored the whites in his eyes, but he seemed alert as he stared at his car through his thick, black frame glasses.
Keyshawn imagined that the man thought that he were hearing things. Or maybe a cat had triggered the alarm. Or maybe the alarm itself malfunctioned.
The wind howled, muffling out the deep droning of the motor.
The man still hadn't found any evidence of mischief, so he glanced down the street.
This helped ease some of Keyshawn's wariness as he started to believed he might get it away.
The man drifted his eyes back to his car and spotted Keyshawn crouched there peeking from the window in the front seat.
Keyshawn felt so many sensations at once that the rhythm of his heartbeat seemed to stop as the saliva in his mouth began to taste bitter. His eyelids collapsed, shutting out his sight, as the cords in his throat swelled, stalling his breathing. He anticipated that the man would stand straight up and scream out something like, "Hey, hey you!" or "What the hell. How did you get into my car?" The next thing that would happen is that Keyshawn would have to back the car out of the driveway, drawing unwanted heat to himself and his partner, and then drive away, possibly escalating the scene into a police chase. The results would always be the same: His capture and spending another stint in jail.
Keyshawn opened his eyes, accepting his fate, but what he saw was not what he'd expected.
The man still stood slumped over with his forearms resting against the banister. His facial expression remained calm as he opened his mouth to yawn.
Keyshawn thought he was hallucinating until he realized...
The windows were tinted.
The man was actually looking back at himself!
Keyshawn twisted himself back into the seat. He rested his head on the steering wheel and shut his eyes again.
He had done it, but the celebration didn't last long.
Keyshawn couldn't say for sure if he was angry when he first heard Will's footsteps approaching the passenger's door, but he admitted that he no longer cared, which explained why he immediately unlocked the doors when Will rapped on the window to get inside. Keyshawn rationalized the fact that the mistake had already been made, so the only thing he could do now was to sit back and see what would happen.
Will slammed the door. "Pool off!"
"Why didn't ya' wait."
"I thought he caught ya'."
"Da windows are tinted en you can see dat."
"Fuk it, pool off."
Keyshawn ignored the order and looked out the window.
The man had stood with his shoulders and back erect. His pale, grey eyes blinked, astonished.
It fascinated Keyshawn to now see the man move away from the banister and run down the flight of steps at an astonishing speed, which almost seemed not of his own. But the momentum the man created from running had put too much strain on his knees and his ankles buckled under the pressure of his weight, causing him to fall over the final step of the porch.
"Cuz, why you sittin' dere?"
Keyshawn didn't respond. What diverted his attention was a set of keys that had slipped out of the man's pocket lying beneath the bottom step of the porch.
Cuz, pool off!"
The man placed his palms flat against the concrete and boosted himself up to his knees. His flip-flops slipped from his feet as he was slow to get up. His toes scraped across the asphalt of the driveway, but he managed to hobbled toward the nose of the car.
"Hey," the man's voice flowed out with a sense of urgency that compelled both Keyshawn and Will to listen. "What the fuck are you little shits doing inside my car?"
The man reached for the door handle and tried to open it. The door didn't budge. He kept his composure as he bent down and brought his hands together, placing them against the window. He brought his face up to the glass to get a clear look, but all he could make out were two dark figures sitting in the front seats. Now, his face infused with panic as the hot air streamed through his nose, fogging up the window. "I can see you two in there," he crammed his hand into his pocket, fumbling around for his keys. He couldn't find them, so he looked down, searching frantically along the driveway.
The man went back to the window and tapped rapidly against his door. "Open up," he demanded. The loose skin around his neck tightened, making his larynx visible. "Or I'm calling the cops."
Again, nothing happened.
"Goddamn it, you little fuckers," the man brought up his elbow and rammed it into the window. "Open up!"
Little damage had been done to the glass as his elbow only left a greasy smudge across the window. However, the man tried again. "Open up!"
He produced the same result, but this time, a small tear formed on the back of his sleeve. Still, determine to get inside of his car, he gave it another try. He thrusted his elbow into the window, leveraging his weight on his hips and shoulder.
The window shattered. Pieces of broken glass fell across the dashboard and into Keyshawn's lap.
Keyshawn flinched, twisting his neck away from flying bits of glass. He had underestimated the man's strength and his will, but that no longer mattered because it was time to leave. He swept the glass from his crotch, and then slid his hands behind the steering wheel, turning it to its original position. His foot stomped down the clutch pedal and he pulled the car into reverse.
The car eased itself out of the driveway. Keyshawn pumped a little gas. A rat-tat-tat came from the engine. The power of the car bullied Keyshawn's hands away from the wheel. The car swirled onto the neighboring lawn of 1237. The tires trampled over a garden fence that surrounded a heap of roses where the car continued to steer backwards until the rear bumper bashed into the mailbox, tilting it over.
Keyshawn stomped the brakes.
For a moment, the man neither spoke nor moved. The expression on his face seemed to say, "Is this actually happening?"
Keyshawn eased off the brake, allowing the car to retreat from the sidewalk and roll onto the street. He tapped the gas pedal. A deafening report shot from the engine. The front end of the vehicle slipped off the edge of the walkway, bouncing onto the concrete of the road. A haze of blue sparks scintillated underneath the car.
"NOOOOO," the man shouted, chasing after his car as it stopped again. He ran up to the driver's door and stuck his arm through the shattered hole in the window. "Y-Y-You sonofabytch!" He clasped his fingers around somebodys neck. It was immediately batted away, so he grabbed the steering wheel. Yo-You fucking can't do this to me! The man started turning the steering wheel towards him until he felt a hot, wet sensation gnawing into his wrist.
The man released the steering wheel and withdrew his arm from the window. "God-damn you-you fucking bastards," the man rubbed the bite mark on his forearm. "When I get my hands on you," he went for the door handle and tried to rip the door open. "I'm going to kill you and everyone you fucking love!"
The springs in the door handle broke . The man's hand slipped, and he stumbled back and fell.
Keyshawn and Will looked at each other. They were impressed.
This man really did love his car.
However, this mutual admiration didn't last long for the neighborhood had started to wake up. The bedroom windows of every home on Rockwell Avenue went white with the faces of women looking out through the corner of the curtains suspiciously as several of front doors opened where the men of the households stepped out wearing their nightly attire, and stood on their porch in a watchful silence.
The man got back to his feet and ran out into the narrow clearing of the street. "I beg of you," he backed away, treading his bare feet through in a small puddle of water, as he created some space between him and his vehicle. "Please don't do this to me," he raised his pale arms over his head and motioned them back and forth. "I pay you anything you want."
Keyshawn stepped on the clutch, switching the gear into first, and released his foot from the brake. The car rolled up the street.
A jewel of sweat appeared below the mans chin. "Please," he said as the fear crept the his voice. "I beg you."
Keyshawn floored the gas pedal causing the engine to hiss. The wheels spun fast on the gravel, leaving behind a trail of smoke.
The car did not yield to the mans demands as it continued to charge up the street.
The man, not willing to give up, retreated a step until he realized the car was coming straight for him. He knew he was not agile enough to get out the way, so he closed his eyes, threw his arms over his face, and opened his mouth to scream.
The car clipped him. The mans body straightened from the impact, then his shoulder and chest folded over the hood where his head hit against the windshield. His legs lifted up, rolling him over to the roof, and he bounced off, landing face first onto the pavement.
The air was dense with black smoke. It floated there for a moment and thinned away. Keyshawn could see through the rear-view mirror the man lying there sprawled out with his face upward to the light with blood spurting from his mouth as his eyes went back, showing only the whites, and his neck twisted at a slant. His eyeglasses were crushed and his yarmulke had rolled off his head and fallen over, lying against the grate to a gutter.
Several of the neighbors sprinted from their porches and into the street. They gathered around the man. Someone kneeled down beside the body and checked for a pulse. Then, the neighbor looked up and nodded, indicating that the man did still have one.
Keyshawn lowered his eyes to the steering wheel. He wanted to hate himself, but he instead chose not to and then checked the rearview mirror again to see if they were being followed.
They were not, so he made a right turn, following a route that led out of the neighborhood. The slight chill blowing through the hole in the window brought to Keyshawn's attention that he didn't want to make this car visible to the local authorities. There were streetlights everywhere, making it almost impossible for him to lurk through, so he took an alternate route back to the city.
The back roadways were deserted.
Keyshawn felt his heart rate return to normal and his nerves eased. He was ready for the drive home, so he pushed the seat back and moved the steering column up to give himself some extra leg space. He navigated through each intersection, speeding up at the beginning of each block, and cruising through until he reached a stop sign where he then slowed down and stopped behind the crosswalk. He continued to drive this way until he reached the outskirts of the city.
Very few words were exchanged for most of the trip. Keyshawn and Will had both made some mistakes; yet out of pride, neither one of them tried to correct the other. However, Keyshawn started thinking. Why hadn't he pulled off right away? Or why did he run over the man when he clearly could have swerved around him? He wanted to explore his thoughts and somehow find an understanding?
"I ben thinkin'," Keyshawn said, slowly articulating each word. "Maybe I need to go back to skcool."
Will smiled. "C'mon, Cuz," he said, surprised to be having this conversation, "you know sckool iz for da hoes, to keep up wit da latest trend en to chill out with da fellas."
"Yeah, but let me be real fo' min'id, Keyshawn continued to press the issue. Itz seems like, back ack home, everyting I know seems tue be bullshyt, you know whut I'm sayin'? Lik I can't be myself cuz I got to try to live up to sumting dat I know I'm not. Either I waste half my money ack da mall, or ack sum damn party, or trying to get into sum club." Keyshawn drew his foot off the brake and stepped on the gas pedal. The car crossed the intersection. " And I ben tue tue many parties, you know, and I'm lik, what am I celebrating? Ain't dun shyt my entire life. I aint going nowhere. I mean fo' reel, Will. Caint I be nobody else?"
The amusement disappeared from Will's face. He studied Keyshawn for a brief moment and then responded coolly, "so whut are you trying to say?"
"Dis ain't me anymo'." Keyshawn finally admitted. His words had made a leap from the denial of a choice of lifestyle to a personal conflict. He had now decided to confess to someone how he really felt and he didn't want to omit any information. "I feel lik I ben runnin' away fum sumthing. You know, I sumtimes find myself in uh corner, giving' up, and dat I shouldn't do nuthin' bout it. I don't know alot, cant do alot, but stead of doin' sumting bout it, I jus' cover it up wit tings I really don't need lik new clothes, or flashy jewelry, or braggin' bout how many bitches I fucked, you know whut I'm sayin'? Deres people out dere doin' tings en aw I can do iz be da same ass lazy muthafucker on da corner and I might be stuck dere fo' da rest of my life. Whut type of example iz dat fo' my kidz or fo' my lil' brother?"
"So you think skcool 'pose to help?"
Will flipped down the visor. He now extracted a small piece of dead skin from his bottom lip and flicked it across the dashboard. "Da only people I know who worked hard en college and made it wuz ether yo' mama who iz uh teacher or sumwon who played ball en dey didn't go nowhere, but dropped out and ended up wit sum factory job. So whut da hell are you gonna do?"
"Dunno," Keyshawn started to mistrust Will's motives. "Maybe I can git a degree and find uh honest job."
The Monterrey reached another stoplight. A pair of bright lights flashed from an oncoming car that traveled in the opposite direction and then disappeared.
Will closed the visor. There was no expression showed in his face when he turned to look at Keyshawn. "I don't have time to lissen to your bullshyt."
"Ain't no bullshyt."
The stoplight turned green, but Keyshawn kept his foot steady on the brake. He fought with this dilemma: the conflict between knowing what he was capable of and the world's opinion of him. He did not want to stand on a corner, or play ball, or even rap. No, it was when he read the newspaper or magazines, or went to the movies, or took a walk downtown that he felt he could merge with people in the crowd. He wanted to be part of the something different. He wanted to be given a chance, even though he was ignorant. He had realized he was handicapped by poverty, lack of education, and just plain misfortune, but he knew enough that he didn't have to live the way he did simply because no one in his family or anybody in his neighborhood had bothered to journey out of their surrounding limitations. "You know," Keyshawn decided he wanted to disrupt the tone of the conversation, "I saw someting tonite."
"Uh college student."
A collage of thoughts gathered in Keyshawns head. He sorted them out and then coerced them into words. "Do you know any young mothers walkin' round our neighborhood telling der friends or der family dat dey wants der baby to grow to be lik you? Or me? I steel cars fo' a livin' and no one ever came up to me and said 'Aye, you really doing sumting good fo' yourself,' or 'I'm proud of you.'" The words now shrilled out of his mouth as he spoke them at a faster tempo. "Aw I hear iz, 'Did you hear bout Ethel's grandson? Da cops hauled his lazy ass off to jail again.' And do you tink anywon cares? Fuk no. It jus one less sonofabytch off da street."
Will grunted, negating this fact. "Maybe you're rite," his head turned toward the window. A glint of green from the traffic light colored the tip of his nose. "But you paid your grandma's rent didn't you?"
"I ain't trying-"
Keyshawn measured the sum of the question, but he didn't like the answer, so he didn't respond.
"Your son ate last nite, didn't he? You got sum nice clothes in your closet, dunt ya? So why da fuk are you complaining fo'?"
"I steal cars --."
"And you good ack it. Dats whut God put you on dis earth to do and so goddamn it, do it. I understand you have your good days and your bad, but you have to learn to live wit it." Will jammed down his Yankee cap and slumped back. "En whut you gonna have to realize, cuz, iz once you in, deres no way out."
Keyshawn smacked the steering wheel with his opened hand. "Man, I don't believe dat bullshyt anymo'."
Will finally lost his cool. "Okay, cuz, heres da deal. He sat up in his seat and leaned forward, resting his eyes in the palm of his hands. You ben to jail twice, so dat means you twice da fuck up. And plus dat, no man, white or black, iz gonna hire your ruthless ass. You can barely read, so your bess bet iz tue enroll ack some ghetto azz community college program to git your GED. Den whut? Who gonna give you any money fo' college? You a felon. Wit your record, you'll be lucky if you ain't stuck cleanin' up shyt aw day en a publik bathroom fo' da rest of your life jus' tue pay off one sirmester of college. Fuk dat. I tried to work. Eight dollas an hour iz not gonna to cut it."
"And whut bout your family? Your grandma needs dat surgery, rite? Your baby's mama pregnant again, ain't she? You got tue lil' kidz to feed, don't you? And dey jus' cut da damn gas off at your crib again. So whut you gon do bout dat? Read uh goddamn. Hell naw wit dat. Your dreams dide da day you dropped out of high skcool and had uh baby. So stop acking like a bytch, grow up and drive."
Keyshawn opened his mouth to speak, but the words stifled in his throat.
What could he possibly say to that? What was so discouraging was not what Will had said but how he had said it. It astonished him so much that it even ushered a tear. A sense of strangulation swept over him as he sat there now, hating himself for the predicament he was in. No. The predicament others had put him in, but because of his pride, he had not wanted anyone, especially Will, to know that his life was entirely conditioned by their attitudes. Keyshawn was never brave enough to venture outside his circle and gain confidence in himself and establish his own rules, which he knew were different from those accepted in his neighborhood.
However, what was it that troubled him the most?
It was the stillness in his life he could no longer tolerate. His routine of having nothing to do but wait around for the day's excitement of eating, drinking, fucking, and finally sleeping, just to wake up and do it all over again had finally sobered him up and forced him to face his problems. Yes, he stole cars and peddled drugs, but he often felt like the victim. His neighborhood stripped him of his power, disciplined his natural ambitions, and incarcerated him from the simple joys and freedom of life. And it was those reasons that led him to blot everything out with weed, alcohol and women. He believed, if he allowed himself to feel the full effect of his life, the result would only come down to an immeasurable burden of misery.
So there it was. Keyshawn had now opened the door to a room full of emotions no one else beside Will had known, but he was devoid of words to further explain them. All these doubts and frustrations he had had been the reason why he lashed out and hit that man with his own car. Keyshawn just wanted to accomplish something that showed his individuality that would catch anybody's attention.
God how he dreamed of being free.
Keyshawn shut his eyes. He knew in his heart he wanted to be somebody else. He wanted to be better, but he just didn't know how.
When Keyshawn opened his eyes again, he glanced at a billboard a block down from where he had stopped the car. A pair of young men with a woman standing between them posed in front of a large, beautiful white-and-turquoise campus. The words written across the top of the billboard in black bold-face letters read:
West Campbell University
Demolishing lifes obstacles, one lecture at a time.
Keyshawn lifted his foot off the brake and stepped on the gas. The Monterrey drove through the intersection and traveled up the dark deserted street back to the bright lights of the city.
By Jarrett Fulton
In darkness and gloom I do remain
Ignorant of worlds beauty,
Unknown of the power of knowledge
Devoid of childhood gaiety.
My dreams and joys are sold by parents
Only for a few coins,
To the group of unfortunate labour children
I am compelled to join.
Snatched from my mothers lap
I am sent under the masters whip,
To abide by what they dictate
And feed on what they give.
I know not what dreams are
And how does the cuckoo sing,
I know not why the children run
When the school bell does ring.
I know not the joys of sports
And glories of victory there,
In the game of life, I have been
Nothing, but a failure.
Destined to do heavy routine work
Is only my lifes goal,
Added to that is injustice
Burdened upon my soul.
No! No! No more can I
Afford this compulsion,
I want to break the bounds
And march ahead towards my destination.
I want to fly like a bird in the vast blue sky
With wide wings of freedom,
And wander about across the world
Of village, country and kingdom.
I want to be the king of my soul
And sing with the world together,
I too want to find my place on earth
Among all other!
By Saswati Das
The Masters at church
Fred Masters hurriedly signed the blue check, his pen darting frantically. In anticipation his head turned toward the soon-to-arrive collection plate. The shiny golden plate was being passed hand to hand by the congregants. The contorting of his body caused pain in the lower back of Fred Master as the pew was hard and unforgiving. His hands ripped out the blue paper along the perforated edges. In one fluid motion the man folded the check in two concealing the writing.
The metal plate approached closer as the organ sounded out a sixteenth century dirge. Nobody sang along though the priest had directed the congregation to the proper page where the lyrics had been translated from the dead language of Latin.
Eagerly the Master's hand was about to deposit the check when another hand darted out, restraining his. Fred was familiar with the touch; it was his wifes hand.
The Master's eyes met his ladys as she gave him a quizzical look. The womans hand squeezed her husbands at first soft but then the grip turned painful. The Master was familiar with the dreadful ritual and relented, handing the blue check to his lady. She in turn opened the paper to examine the contents of the offering. The grotesque look on her face revealed all that was on her mind, but to make no doubt in the matter she harshly spoke, We can do better than we are!
Fred Master's hand retrieved the check and tossed it into the plate and then passed the plate on. He would have hell to pay later, of that he was certain. Meanwhile the lady in the presence of the church restrained her true feelings. After all there were rules to be followed in this so-called House of God and speaking ones mind was forbidden.
Both Fred and his lady were aggravated. The lady was upset that her husband would put such little money in the offering plate; after all God had been good to them, the Masters were blessed abundantly. They had two houses, a regular one and a vacation house at the shore. Then there was the Mercedes, the Porsche and the Ford Explorer. They needed something to pack all their stuff in when they went to the summer home. Heaven forbid they had to be cramped up in their Porsche. Then there was all her fine clothes and jewelry. Why we have everything that life could offer, thought the lady as she sighed verbally, except happiness. But joy was Gods work, God would bring that joy. And that more than anything else is why her husbands twenty-dollar check was just not good enough to please the Lord. Why it should at least have been forty dollars!
Fred Masters hated giving money to the priests. Why, he had seen those sons of bitches several times at the liquor store. Werent they satisfied with the sacrificial wine? Of course, on such occasions these Men of God did not wear their fine outfits and ceremonial robes. No, they just looked like ordinary people. The Master's mind raced on, those sons of bitches just work one day a week.' He bitterly recalled his parents deaths. Fifty years straight the elder Masters gave sacrificially to the church. They were present every Sunday and holy day. And in thanks for a life of loyal dedication Fred Master was handed a sizable bill for the funeral.
So in the House of God, Fred Masters sat next to his wife in silence with a hurting back against a hard and unforgiving pew. Fred noticed that a few people were making their way out of the church and Fred longed to be one of them. But he dare not tempt his wife with that notion of freedom considering her state of mind.
The priest got up to do his thing. He started off talking about Jesus command of Loving Ones Neighbor. he priest then went on to explain how the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were doing just that, loving ones neighbor. Fred couldnt follow the logic behind the reasoning, how soldiers killing people and blowing things up were loving ones neighbor. But Fred never expected church to make sense anyway. The priest contended that the troops were defending the countrys freedom so that they could have all the nice things that they had. The conclusion of the matter was that we should be grateful to our troops making the supreme sacrifice and the priest led a moving prayer for their safety and success. Then without missing a beat the priest went on to advertise bingo night and a special collection that was going to be held for something. Fred didnt know what that something was except that it was made clear that it was absolutely necessary and very costly, so the congregation should be prepared to fork up the money.'
While the priest carried on his antics Fred peered upwards and marveled at the beautiful architecture. In particular how the ceiling arched, being supported with massive beams. Then taking his eyes down from the heavens he gazed upon the stained-glass windows which glimmered in the suns light. Down to Earth he looked over the gold that lined the church. He viewed the statues of saints that people bowed before to make prayers. Fred had a thought, Whoever created this religious business was one shrewd man!
After saying the final amen for the closing blessing the priests walked out. A young acolyte swung a golden censer which spilled a poignant fragrance into the air. Hope they aint molesting that boy! thought Fred in his first genuine prayer of the day. Then the masses fled the church, everyone trying to leave as quickly as possible. The Master noted it was the first time the people were smiling during the whole service.
Fred and his wife were doing their best to leave so they could do something useful with the rest of their day. As they shuffled toward the exit the crowd was delayed by the priest who was attempting to shake hands with the faithful. He was calling everybody my son or my daughter.' Fred noted that the priest was not related to anybody and most likely didnt know but a few of the names of the people in the flock. Fred made haste trying to avoid the unpleasant interaction. For some reason the priest extended his hand towards the Master. Repulsed Fred could do nothing but restrain the truth and he shook the hand of the man dressed in black. God bless you my son, spoke the priest repeating his favorite mantra. Fred noted he was a good ten years older then the priest.
Fred Master gingerly strolled from the church with his wife as they were heading towards where their Mercedes Benz was parked. Fred looked fine and dashing in his handsome blue suit whose jacket had sleeves short enough to show off his Rolex. His companion in turn was looking mighty fine as well. Her hair was elegantly made up and make-up was applied, transforming her looks to a woman ten years younger. Her gold earrings and pearl necklace made a fine combination with her fur coat. The couple turned the corner.
There beside the wall their eyes fell upon a wretch of a man. His tattered green army jacket was not a fashion statement but an authentic one. The obvious fact that the mans right arm was missing could not be avoided nor missed. The man was slumped against the wall beside him lay a hat with a few scarce coins laying in it. The soldier, stuttering in the cold, called out the words spare change, spare change as he shook spasmodically.
The lady clung closer to the Master. The pair quickly hastened their steps to flee as quickly as possible from the wretch lying on the sidewalk. A comment was made, Theres no helping some people!
By John Kaniecki
HAITI one year later
Roaring earth heaved Cataclysm Cries Ma femme !
Try over there His bare hands tore debris.
Families still search the wreckage what is left of Port Au Prince.
Victims retell stories pile their memories like stones
erecting walls reciting to shield them from their pain.
Amputees learn how to hobble phantom limbs dance slabs of ruin
In tent cities six stretch bones out on the muddy floors
Four stand till the weary dawn waiting for their turn.
The stench of unwashed bodies competes with excrement.
Puddles swarm with vermin maggots feed on Petit mouin
babies skinny sticks for limbs famished lie on Mamans
knees bellies bloated listless eyes mute too weak to cry.
Nations promised intervention medicine food funds.
When the checks arrived Haitian Officials voiced their Thanks
but theyve lost the Funds for Haiti
(private Off Shore Bank Accounts?)
Drinking water trucks arrive Not enough to go around
People shove elbow each other in the Me First queues
Many warned of Cholera still bathe in dank polluted pools.
Clinics overwhelmed medicines scarce staff pile the sick outside.
Death stalks courtyards rattles in the dehydrating sun
Thirty thousand are infected Voodoo Dirges for the doomed.
The population kneels Their faith is strong
church open air Mon Dieu He dont listen!
Pray Him louder! Louder! Make Him Hear!
Undertakers low on wood cant build coffins to suffice so island
men push squeaking wheelbarrows through fields
dump death in troughs
Eh! Mon garcon Where he buried?
Je ne sait pas (pauvre homme)
He be everywhere
By Jena Smith
The child in the gutter is likely dead
The child in the gutter is likely dead.
Nobody cares to check him & find out.
He lies without moving, like so much lead.
He's little & skinny, his clothes are shed.
No more than 10 yrs old, what's it about?
The child in the gutter is likely dead.
He looks neglected & was never fed,
unworthy of a gesture or a shout.
He lies without moving, like so much lead.
He has a timorous aura of dread.
My sense of humanity fills with doubt.
The child in the gutter is likely dead.
I'm a cowardly jerk, I should have fled.
When I left home, I should have changed my route.
He lies without moving like so much lead.
The ambulance comes when my heart is bled.
I should be flogged with a murderous knout.
The child in the gutter is likely dead.
He lies without moving, like so much lead....
By Fritz Hamilton
Myself in my arms
A child dies each day in a ditch
She is my double
A man in a doorway, begging for loaves
He is my double
The Ugandan, his face pustulated with AIDS
I wear his crown of pus on my heart
Lady Afghan, stoned in a hole
She leaps at me from a mirror
I see the boy soldier, 18 yrs & all,
Running with shit in his pants
He steps in puddles that wear my face
The fiery gods of suffering, counting
Four fingers in their fist
I am the fifth
Night begins with a darkened moon
It is carried in my arms.
Caminan y caminan
para dificilmente llegar
a los campamentos.
Los pies en la arena,
la cabeza al sol,
el alma es testimonio
de infinita soledad,
de miedo, humillacion y tristeza.
El encuentro diario con la muerte
llena sus ojos de cansancio,
sangre y lagrimas.
?Quien ha inventado la guerra?
!Las mujeres y los niños
son siempre los refugiados!
Spent and war-weary,
at the refugee camp.
feet coated in sand,
their souls testify to
Dull eyes reflect
their everyday encounter
Who invented war?
Women and children
By Teresinka Pereira, tr. by Tim Hall
Poema para la madre "ilegal"
!Quiero decirte que eres mas legal
que cualquier otra madre en el mundo!
Con el hijo en el vientre escalaste la montana,
sufriste el calor y la fatiga del desierto,
cruzaste mojada el Rio Grande.
Tu sueño era que el hijo naciera en el Norte,
para que tuviera un futuro mejor,
para que fuera estudiante, ciudadano y trabajador.
Llegaste cansada y temerosa
y a los pocos pasos de la frontera
te humillaron y te han detenido.
Despues te torturaron en la carcel y
mientras tu hijo nacia, estabas esposada.
No tienes derecho a nada, y tu hijo
nacido en Norte America, vive clandestino.
Pero no vamos a esperar que
las madres "legales" te regalen el derecho
y te devuelvan las tierras que te han quitado:
Hoy dia declaramos que la tierra es tuya
aunque sea para sufrirla, trabajarla
y hasta mismo para parir tus hijos.
!Hasta siempre, venceras!
Para Roberto Vargas
Although you were born
in the shadow of a volcano
some August morning
a marble headstone now marks
the 2,853 miles I travel
to flower with words and memories of living
your final resting place
San Francisco is no place to die for me
among the spent love and fears
of my unrequited youth
too hard to forget too fast to record
I the manchild who tried to mold your teardrops into pearls/
to string our hope your wisdom
with my perennial dream of returning
to the safety of the homeland our womb
the almighty silent implosion of the womb
creating visions of impending revolution in my daily veins
shaping the seed of my sons mi hija
the alchemy of my hunger my virtual words
made struggle gave light
everlasting to I and I
Translated by Teresinka Pereira
In the fields
The fields have spoken
WE NEED YOU
White people don't want us
we hope you still do.
Water runs off their backs
like the words shouted from
the occasional stray car;
the sun never takes a time out.
Family of 5 but it might
as well be 10. Dream Big
echoes in their brains; a hollow slap.
But his mind wanders
to those nights under a liquored
moon, when tequila and lies
whispered under oath
smoothed over jagged edges.
Now, he watches her
bent over and near-crippled
make more love to these fields
than she has to him lately.
Illegals go home!
This slap isn't hollow.
Too exhausted to fire back;
he is home, and sometimes
you can't go back.
By Cathy Porter
Where do you go when they hunt for your skin?
Unemployed so long the whole family grows thin.
Where do you live when the evictions are enforced?
Will the masses resist or follow the course?
Where do you turn when the ballot proves worthless?
How about sickness, disease or breakfast?
Where do you fight when you're arrested on sight?
Can you raise a family or continue your plight?
Why do racists exist in this day and age?
It's no surprise that Latinos have rage!
Why do they have such contempt in Arizona?
The masses disagree with that fascist persona!
Why do we see a revolutionary wave?
With class contradictions we'll never behave!
Why do the people say enough is enough?
Because self-determination is not so tough!
When do you see an end to humanity's nightmare?
It's time to grasp revolution and dare not to be scared!
When do we break the chains that kept us appeased?
Today's a good day to buckle their knees!
When do we see Arizona as a symptom not problem?
Imperialism creates 1,2,3 Arizonas and is the true goblin!
When do we ensure that Power to the People is all we're learning?
Wait, is that a prairie fire or is it Arizona burning?!
By Jose H. Villarreal
Crescent City, CA 95532
My country does to thee
Your children walk barefoot through raw sewage
Behemoths lumber through your streets
Spitting death and destruction to ancient icons
Armed men burst into your homes
Terrify your women and children
Take a father an uncle a cousin a brother
Hold them in bondage
Humiliate defile torture
Through your land sacred rivers flow
Tigress Euphrates birth of civilization
Brown people of the desert
I grieve for your suffering
And for the soldiers
Who just want to go home
But are trapped like you
In a fatal conflict not of their making
I would rather walk or ride a horse
Than rob you of the black sea
That lies under your ancient sands
This feeble pen seeks justice for what you suffer
I spill only ink you spill your blood
If the world be brave and not tremble
At the action of this teenage nation
It would rebuke this brutal war
Declare perpetrators war criminals
All predatory wars are criminal
Against peoples of the world
Like all empires of the past
This one too will have its fall
By J. Glenn Evans
At the gate, he turned to wave,
and the air swallowed a chill
that stuck around
long after his departure.
She could pray, but to whom
would such prayers be directed?
The gods of luck had long ago
though the gods of
bitterness and anger
were always there,
waving a hymnal in her face,
enticing her to a verse of
Fuck This War,
which always sounded good
after a few rounds of hatred
mixed with shots of intense fear.
By Cathy Porter
Rental special - live your dream
Move in now for the time of your life!
We promise to promise you complete satisfaction
(that you'll never get. 100% of the current residents are dissatisfied
and 0% of them recommend us to friends...
they don't even recommend us to their worst enemies.)
Let us move you in (and you'll never be able to get out)
We raise the rent as faithfully as deterioration is happening to our units:
free waterfalls of mud and rain come with all the basements, kitchen
sliding screen doors guaranteed to slide right off and never slide again,
pipes leak and the water sags the floors and ceilings.
Air conditioners are now conditioned to blow hot air. (You'll be cooler
outside in the 100-degree heat and humidity, or in your car with your
car's air conditioner running.)
Come visit us today and lease your life away!
Our Leasing Office is newly remodeled and outside you will see
the most beautiful garden! A new gutter trims our roof! (Gutters are
missing or are nonfunctional on our rental units, so when you move in.
please do not look up and find fault with us. A great gutter is a luxury
we can't afford to guarantee you. This luxury is ours.)
The prime time to move here was when we were built in the 1960's
on a landfill disguised to look like a country hill.
No one in Management or on our staff would ever dream of living in this
complex. But we want you to come and live here dream and hope for
the best! We have something special just for you! (We think were
going bankrupt or are going to be condemned, but you'll have to figure
that out on your own.)
Should you have a repair, just call the office ASAP!
We even have a 24-hour Emergency phone number.
Someone may or may not come to your rescue.
If someone does come. he is trained to say, "There's really nothing
wrong here, or "I can't fix that. It's unrepairable."
Alone in your frustration? No, bugs will be with you. We can no longer
afford an exterminator. Just make friends with the bugs.
When the bathroom plumbing fails. as it will, just leave the building and
go camping. Can't get away? Try using a neighbor's bathroom or use
the bathroom at the nearby gas station
We suggest you apply styrofoam and plastic to all your windows.
The glass is paper-thin and is only for decoration.
There have been rapes and break-ins at some apartments, and some cars
have been broken into or stolen. The police suggest residents install anti-
theft devices or alarms.
If you hear something go bump in the night, it's probably a resident
leaving in a hurry before morning comes. Residents are skipping out
of their leases without giving us any notice.
We will tolerate your requests for repairs, but we will not tolerate you
breaking your lease.
On the bright side, due to the increasing number of vacancies,
you will have a great choice of apartments to choose from,
and there will be many vacant parking spots near your apartment.
Leases are so well-written that you will never be able to sue us for losses
or damages for any reason.
We have rental specials and want you to come and live our dream.
ONLY you will be disappointed, and that's what counts!
Come and dream with us! Move in now for the time of your life!
By Judith L. Lundin
He is his own philosophy.
Revere the nation of
Autocratic popular actor.
2009 claims, I
have a solution
more final than
Better than gas chamber shower.
Better than worked to death.
Better than being shot, slid
into ovens working 24/7. 2009
decides, Let's scalpel
throats. A jugular
Balance the State Budget.
May. July. November
SSI recipient neck
opened up. Philosophy
swipe from a pen &
elderly Poor hemorrhage
along side the Disabled.
Terminate terminate terminate
all over California's floor.
By L.B. Miller
Car conversation in a posh suburban town
There he is again I see that man along here every day
That one with the grocery cart piled with garbage bags?
Hes a menace walking in the streetBut theres no sidewalk
He must cover twenty miles
up and down the avenue
coatless stealing bottles cans
looting from the trash
Still his time is better spent
than milling on street corners
like that lazy herd of Gauchos --
Lazy ? No they came for work
sending funds to family but
Why dont they bring chairs?
Because the town has passed an ordinance
Sit theyre carted off as vagrants
so theyre forced to stand all day
Let them stand on someone elses streets
This is our country ! Seal the borders
Send them back ! Theyre not our affair
Dont forget they labor Cheap
Isnt that your gardener?
Is it ? They all look alike and
I dont speak their language
You mean Portuguese or Spanish
No I dont speak poverty
By Jena Smith
Shes eleven brings her dreams
her father mother close behind her an important family affair
They have little yet they
want to give this to their daughter
I can see it in their eyes lustrous Puerto Rican eyes loving
barely any English
I ask her to sing for me
Listening for her potential; good ear bright shes copied styles
from Pop recording stars
Shes vivacious promising
I take her up and down the scale. Try to fill her with my knowledge
One lesson So much to do.
The city where she goes to
school has stripped their budget dropped their music Nothing for
this eager child who
yearns to sing reminding
me of me who hoped Id be discovered seated singing on the branch
of a Cherry Tree.
Ive developed expertise
understand vocal techniques. I could give her music skills open doors
to scores of genius.
My fee is not high
but for these parents its a fortune sacrifice of medications clothing food?
Damn What to do?
This is how I make
my living (disappointment in their faces) I was young and needy once People
were so good to me
What is my art all about
if I dont share it with this child who stands before me full of hope.
My heart melts around her It is pay back time.
By Jena Smith
Hwy 3 to Galveston
Early September of 54, I sit on a tall stool behind the counter inside the Esso Service Station I manage and wait for seven oclock, weekday closing time. The sun is setting, so it wont be long. Out front the traffic along Hwy 3 to Galveston is dying out. When a faded maroon 41 four-door Chevy pulls into the drive, I walk out to grab a chamois out of the water bucket, and put it through the wringer. A slender, wiry, man gets out as I walk up to the car.
Hi. He smiles and sticks out his hand.
I grab it and grin. Its Frenchy, a friend I havent seen in four, five years, not since he got married. We go back a long way, to the day he gave me a job when I needed it, on the shrimper he was working in Galveston Bay. Frenchy was my hero. He had been twenty-five and just back from the war, while I was fourteen.Five gallons, regular, he says.
How you been? I start wiping the windshield with the chamois. In the front seat passenger side is his wife holding a small baby. She was a beautiful woman when they got married, slender, full red lips and wavy black hair, a Cajun woman. Shes heavier now, her hair below the shoulder, hanging in strands, like it needs a shampoo.
Doing okay. I think that right rear could use some air.
I start to check the tires with my gauge. All are worn, but not too bad, except the car is loaded, riding low on its rear leaf springs.
Slow leak? I ask .
Two boys, under five, sitting very still in the back seat, are crowded in with suitcases, cardboard boxes, pillows, quilts, and pans. They look like good kids, causing no problem. A loaf of bread, a jar of mustard, and a box of Ritz crackers are on the shelf behind the back seat.
Hear of any jobs? he asks while Im airing up the right rear to thirty PSI.
Nope. American Oil and Monsanto are laying off. That year, there was a turn-down in business around Texas City and LaMarque, and most other places, too.
I figured, he says.
I manage the station, work the front myself. Ive got two colored boys handling the back bays. But Ive got to let one go. One thing we do a lot back there is spray old crankcase oil under the cars, keep the fenders from rusting off.
Its a dirty job, not for a white man.
Im on my way to Louisiana, just thought Id ask. We got kinfolk back there.
I stick the hoses nozzle into the neck of the gas tank. In WWII Frenchy was with the Rangers, the ones that scaled Point de Hoc, the cliff overlooking bloody Omaha, and wrested it from the Germans. Of the two hundred and fifty Rangers, forty walked out. Though gaunt, he looks like he could still climb a vertical rope. He has deep-set blue eyes, and a dark complexion, looking like he always needs a shave.
When the dials on the pump read five gallons and a buck twenty-five, I let loose the trigger, but leave the nozzle in because there is no gurgling sound coming from the tank, like it would if it was filling up, something most people do when leaving on a trip. His wife in the front seat is holding the baby to her breast, a cloth diaper covering her upper body.
He pulls five quarters from his pocket and lets them slide down his fingers into my palm. We walk away from the car.
Frenchy, Im doing pretty good, managing this station, single and all. Look, I have an extra ten. You might need it before you get to Louisiana.
Its just a loan, next time through, you could pay me back.
I cant do that, he says softly and heads back toward the car.
I catch up with him. Listen, our underground gas tank holds around eight hundred gallons. We measure it with a twelve foot stick and were off ten, twenty gallons every time.
He just looks at me as I walk past.
At the car, I pull up the lever of the gas nozzle and watch the pump. After several minutes the dials roll from five to sixteen gallons. The tank was empty when he pulled in. And I know damn well what money he had was a buck twenty-five, in quarters. I hang the hose on the pump and turn back to Frenchy. The full tank will get them into Louisiana . With five gallons they would have ended up in Beaumont in the middle of the night.
He looks at me a long time, but says nothing. I remember some of his friends talking. After the rangers beat the Germans off the point, they were supposed to be relieved that night. It didnt happen for four days. His unit received more medals than any other regiment, and way too many posthumously.
We stand there for a moment, neither of us saying a thing as darkness settles in. Finally, he gets into his car, turns and nods at me. I watch as his taillights become smaller as he drives away down Hwy 3 toward Galveston , thirteen miles away.
Inside at the cash register, I add two ones and change from my pocket to his five quarters and ring up four bucks, gas, before I slam the cash drawer shut. I pick up the phone and call my girl. Its about seven fifteen, and Im usually at her house by half-past. Its going to be another thirty minutes before I get there I tell her before hanging up.
A baby, two boys, a buck and a quarter, an empty gas tank and somewhere a box full of medals. And I didnt help much. I kick the wooden stool across the station. It bangs on the concrete floor before rattling against the cinder block wall. Rusty, my regular worker, looks around the door from the back-bay, but disappears when I dont say a thing.
Back there, I tell Rusty and the other man to close things down. The grease bay is separated from the wash area by a six-foot brick wall that I walk around. Dan Caulkins, who graduated from the same high school I did four years earlier, has just finished washing his car. Hes using our water, our soap, and wiping his windows with our chamois cloth. But hes a guy from an older group I used to hang around with and only comes by a couple times a month. Hes leaning against the drivers side door, just looking at me, the chammy in his hand. Something doesnt seem right and I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach as I walk around his car. Its a good looking black 39 Ford coupe that has two chrome fog lights with yellow lens, on the bumper.
Mind if I look in your car?
Look in the trunk, any place you want.
When he steps back, I open the door and fold the back of the drivers seat forward. Ive worked on a lot of cars. Behind that seat is a small two-foot square compartment. In it is a case of Esso quarts of oil. I wrestle the unopened cardboard box out, placing it on the two stacked against the back wall.
Dan slides into his car as I walk up motioning for him to roll the window down.
I rest my elbows on the door and stick my head in, my face only inches from his.
Dont come back, I say.
He shrugs and starts the engine.
You do, Ill break you in half. I stand up straight and watch as he backs out, driving off slowly, with not a problem in the world, on his way to pick up his girl. The two black men have been watching. I know Dan had to have put the oil in his car when they were busy on the other side of the partition. Rusty would not let me down.
I motion for the cotton man, someone we hired to work during the summer when Hwy 3 is loaded with traffic from Houston going to and from the Galveston beaches.
We have to let you go, I say. Saturday will be your last day.
He nods showing no emotion, his face greasy, large drops of sweat running down.
When youre asking around about a job, give my name, the number here. Its all I can do, so I walk away. The cotton man came from up around Waco and had worked mostly in the cotton fields, hoeing and picking. Hed come here to get one of the good-paying jobs at the plants. It was just a poor time. They were hiring very few whites and no black men. They can only use so many laborers to do yard work and pick up the candy wrappers the high-paid white union workers throw on the ground. He was a no-nonsense guy and I would have kept him, but with the summer ending, the business wasnt there.
After they leave, I turn out all but the night light and go into the rest room, scrub my fingernails with an old toothbrush and lava soap, shave, strip, sponge off, and dry with paper towels. Before I put on slacks, a sport shirt, and richly polished cordovan loafers, I splash on some aftershave and use underarm deodorant. At the counter, I pull out a carton of Coinpak rubbers and take one. Each is wrapped in tinfoil, looks a little larger than a fifty-cent piece, and blends in with the change in a guys pocket. I put a quarter in the register, and ring up twenty-five cents, miscellaneous, just what we charge.
At fifteen past eight I close out the cash register, finish locking up, and walk to my car. Its a 47 Chevy club coupe, with eight coats of dark maroon lacquer paint, a sun visor, two chrome spotlights in the windshield posts, and fender skirts on the back wheels. On the ground are four new white sidewall Premium Goodyear Eagles, and I look at the right rear for a long moment. I figure Frenchy is through Galveston and may be on the ferry, heading across Galveston Bay to Bolivar Point, a thirty-minute boat ride. From there to Beaumont is about eighty miles with no stores or stations open in between, the Gulf on one side of the road, sand dunes, salt grass and Galveston Bay on the other. Dont have car trouble, I tell him.
Two miles down Hwy 3 is the Windmill, a beer joint. Inside, I order a Southern Select, two cold ones for two-bits. Its brewed in Galveston. Edie, the barmaid, slides a bottle in front of me and smiles. She has small perfect white teeth and a tiny round puckered mouth that makes her look like a teenager, but her eyes tell a different story. Theres not much business tonight. Two guys, hardly talking, drinking beer and playing shuffleboard; an older man and an even older woman sitting beside the small dance floor; and a khaki-clad man, his head hanging down like hes had too many brews, halfway sitting on a stool at the other end of the bar, one fist wrapped around a brown bottle, the other holding a cigarette, a thin ribbon of smoke drifting straight up. Theres a jukebox spinning out red, blue and yellow light, but no one is playing it. All in all, its a quiet place except for the buzz of the refrigerators keeping the beer cold.
An hour and three beers later, I figure Frenchy must be about to Beaumont. The boys, Im guessing, are asleep. They probably had mustard sandwiches for supper and maybe a Ritz cracker for dessert. Those kinds of sandwiches arent bad, sort of spicy, and filling, if you put an extra slice of bread in between. Ive had some myself. Those tires werent all that good, but maybe theyll last through the cool of the night, and by then hell be over the state line, with his friends. I dont want to think about breaking down on a deserted stretch of highway in the dark, not with kids in the car.
Its a muggy night, my shirt is wet under my arms and damp all over. The open window to my back is doing no good at all. Edie puts a frosty Southern in front of me and says this ones on the house. I nod and wipe a sweaty palm on my trouser leg before pulling the phone from beneath the bar to call my girl, around nine-thirty.
Somethings come up, I cant make it, I say
You at the Windmill?
Ill be there shortly.
I hang up.
Ten minutes later, she walks in wearing a white blouse, a tight black skirt and heels. Shes a Cajun girl, too, with a smooth dark olive complexion and naturally red lips. Her wavy black hair is cut just right, halfway down her neck, leaving plenty of skin to kiss. She stops just inside and smiles. Its like a bright sparkler on a dark Fourth. The old man at the table looks up and smiles back. The boys at the shuffleboard just stare. Even the man with the hanging head and smoking cigarette straightens up to look at her. Shes tall and pretty and sexy and shes my girl. Friends tell me Im lucky. Theyre probably right. At the juke, she drops in some coins, and the music is loud and welcome.
She sits on the tall barstool next to mine, crosses her legs, showing lots of thigh, and places her hand on the bar, keeping time with the music, her long red fingernails tapping.
The boys havent started playing again yet, still sneaking looks at my girl.
You ready for a brew? I ask.
Im ready, she says. Yeah, Im ready. How about you?
I bend over, kissing her lips lightly, for only a moment, but a fraction too long.
She studies my face. Things going okay?
Nothings wrong? She covers my hand with hers.
Its okay. With my other hand, I reach into my pocket to grab a quarter, touching the Coinpak. I motion to Edie for a couple bottles as I place the two-bit piece on the bar, balance it on its edge, and thump it with my finger. For a while it spins, but finally wavers and falls, making a soft clink, hardly audible over Bill Haley rocking on the juke with Shake, Rattle, and Roll.
By Frank Carden
The school had been founded in 1885 and they'd always been called that. Neversweats. They were old now and it was hard to imagine that they weren't always old, even back in 1885, Bobbie Joe, Ray Bob, Catfish and Clarence. Silently and unseen they raked the leaves, cleaned the bathrooms and emptied the trash of the Constables, the Ruperts, the Fitzpaughs and the Baxters.
Spring break has just ended. Hadley was tan from his stay at the summer home in the Canary Islands. Carter's private plane landed on the golf course as usual bringing him back alone from Bermuda to Connecticut. Jody and Stanton had spent the vacation together and Wimpy always a little deviate had slummed it in Fort Lauderdale with the public schoolers.
They lolled on the porch of Insley Hall after lunch, these thirteen and fourteen-year-old men who one day would marry their Muffies or Muffins, Wingies, Trishes or Tippers.
Wimpy knew that Daddy's bank in Atlanta had reserved a chair for him even if he didn't get accepted at Harvard
Clarence ambled about, a rake in his hands.
Wimpy stood on the porch among the rest watching Clarence slowly raking leaves. Clarence seemed to throw his hip in front of him with tremendous determination each time he stepped backward with the rake in his hand, pulling the leaves hard into piles. He didn't bother to wince in pain any more as he moved slowly but with great effort in continual slow motion. Large long keys to all the broom closets, bathrooms and kitchens on campus hung on heavy chains running from his belt to the inside of his pocket. The keys seemed to drag down the right side of him, further exaggerating the ambling walk required by his ever-pained torso.
The men-boys watched, sucking on peppermint toothpicks as they leaned against the stone pillars of the porch. Wimpy winked at Carter and snickered, Neversweats, good name for 'em, good name. Carter nodded in agreement. All the others snickered, soda bottles in hand. Hadley listlessly tossed his candy wrapper on the ground.
Clarence had all the leaves in small piles now and began a studied climb of the porch steps on his way to clean the luncheon tables. First day back on campus was buffet lunch; the kitchen help hadn't returned yet.
Wimpy didn't even bother to look at him as he spoke. Rather he was looking at Carter.
Hey, Clarence, bet you must feel real important with all those keys and everything. Carter snickered.
Clarence seemed not to hear. He probably hadn't spoken to the men-boys in his forty years there.
Clarence was about three feet past Wimpy when h turned and snarled:
Yeah, but you don't see me getting' no swell head about it.
By David Goldstein
Frank Tobias, please call extension 1. Tobias, call extension 1.
Frank hurried across the ATKO factory floor to the executive suite. It was a bad sign in a defense plant when the CEO, immediately upon return from Washington D.C., summons his Director of Human Resources. If they had gotten the contract the chief would have called in the production team instead.
As Frank reached the cement stairs leading to the executive offices he flipped through a few likely scenarios, none of them pleasant. He and the Production Director, Red Harkness, had tried for years to steer the chief, Al Brennan, into the private sector. But Al shunned the marketplace. He liked defense work where, he said, you only had one consumer to worry about. Now was the time to worry. If they didnt get the contract all they had left was replacement and redesign work on old orders. That would mean layoffs, big time and, possibly, dissolution of the company.
Go on in, Frank, hes waiting, said Jillian, Als secretary.
Frank opened the chiefs door, trying to focus on the most important consideration of all, his own ass.
Frank. Have a seat.
Al Brennan sat behind a huge oak desk in front of a ceiling-high window, playing with a long slender letter opener. The blinds were lowered and slanted downward, putting Als face in shadow but illuminating the visitor. But Frank knew Al wasnt smiling. He sat down and waited for Al to speak.
Frank, have you done that downsizing contingency plan yet?.
Not yet. I was hoping we wouldnt need it.
Its not a contingency any more.
Frank started to respond but Al raised his right hand slightly, cutting him off.
Theyve got to go, Frank. Now. We didnt get the contract. Theres nothing on the horizon. After we finish with the old orders were being sold for scrap. Heres the list of the ones were keeping for the transition and the list of layoffs.
Thats rich, thought Frank. Were being sold. As if Al would ever be on the block. Hes probably already lined up a safe harbor. And Franks boat, he hoped, was tied to Als. He briefly pictured his Sea Ray Runabout hitched to Als Hatteras Coastal Cruiser. Still he thought of the task ahead and recoiled. May this cup pass from my lips.
He looked at the short list of those being retained, then at the long list of layoffs.
Al, some of these guys have been here twenty-five years. I used to be one of them. Cant we do something? You know nobodys going to pick them up if we let them go. Can we bridge their time to full retirement?
Cant do it, Frank. It would cost a fortune. Theres no way around it. Weve got to let them go. Trade them a couple of months' severance pay for releases of liability. See Haber in Legal to set up the releases. Stay within the downsize budget I gave you. But I want you to get releases on all of them no exceptions. Now, unless theres anything else, you better get started. Al was tapping the letter opener on the desk, a warning, but Frank tried anyway.
Al, I cant do it. Have Plant management or Legal do it. Id rather cut off my left nut than dump these guys myself.
Yeah. Uh-huh. Okay, Al said, tapping. Come over here, Frank. Frank rose slowly and stepped towards the desk. Al opened a drawer and looked in it. Here it is.
He took out a fat Swiss Army Knife. Its a Wenger, Frank, four blades, screwdriver, awl, tweezers, and some little scissors. Well use the scissors. Drop your pants, Frank.
Al, you dont have to .
Drop your goddam pants Frank! Im going to cut off your left nut. And thats not half of whats going to happen if those releases arent on my desk in one month. Am I getting through?
Frank, standing close to the desk could see the chiefs face clearly now. It was old and puffy but the eyes were hard as wet rocks. Al folded the knife and put it back in the drawer, looking at Frank the whole time. Now do it, he said.
As he left the office, Frank thought Al didnt have to make that threat. Al had already done it, years ago.
Mark Haber, the head of Legal, was an affable, overweight man in his fifties. He preferred the relatively relaxed life of a corporate in-house counsel, to the tense and competitive, albeit more lucrative, career of a trial lawyer in a silk-stocking firm. He steered the company away from trouble and, when it couldnt be avoided, turned the case over to the pin-striped sharks downtown for litigation.
He patiently explained to Frank some of the law regarding layoffs of non-union employees. The main thing is to get them to sign releases of their rights to sue for age discrimination or anything else. You offer them some consideration, say three months severance pay, in return for their sign-off. Theyve got seven days after signing to renege. After that theyre stuck.
Mark, Ive never been through a big layoff before. Frank was looking at the short list of retainees. How do we justify cherry picking all these young engineers and supers and brooming the older experienced ones? Smells like age bias to me.
We fish around for some non-age criteria for retention, say advanced degrees, computer skills, whatever statistically comes out our way, maybe salt the list with a couple of token old farts and were safe. No plaintiffs lawyer would take those cases without a big retainer fee and thats exactly what our layoffs wont have. Nah, theyll sign off. Ill draft the releases, Frank. Ive got a dozen samples from other companies.
Just like that, eh?
Thats it, Frank. Hell, if it werent for Al, wed be gone too.
I know, Frank said without conviction. Were too useful. He hoped it was true. He had alimony payments and a daughter in college.
Frank began his via dolorosa in Materials. Al told him to retain the Group Leader, Larry Matusik and to pick one Buyer. Frank was less concerned about this division as many had cozy relations with suppliers that could lead to subsequent employment.
He went to Matusiks office.
Oh shit, said Matusik, sitting behind his desk across from Frank.
Dont worry, said Frank. Youre transitioned.
Where are we going?
I dont know. I cant figure it out. The plant isnt worth shit without a contract. Anyhow, Im keeping Bonnie Blue.
Good choice, said Matusick. Shes smart and discreet and shes not greedy. I never worry about her.
Ill tell the others myself. If you want me Ill be in my office ruining peoples lives.
At 4:00PM, Franks first layoff meeting took place with Mike Fanieul, a long time Buyer. As Frank had hoped, Mike was unfazed by the news.
Its okay, Frank. I knew this could happen one day. Ive made friends over the years with suppliers. I never leaned on them like some. So Ive got some places to go.
Good, Frank said. He hadnt raised the issue of severance pay. Mike could see the release on Franks desk.
And Frank. I dont need any payout. Ill sign a release. Save it for those poor bastards in Production.
Mike, youve got to take at least one months worth. Haber says there has to be something called consideration for the release of liability.
Mike laughed. Okay, a month. We can go to Vegas and blow it. Les bon temps roules as my daddy used to say. Gimme the paper. Frank filled it in and pushed it over and Mike signed it. Then Frank pulled out two glasses and a bottle of Teachers Scotch. He poured two drinks and handed one to Mike.
To old times, Frank.
Mike stood. Anything else?
Thats it. You can leave any time. Mike waved and left the office. He was clear of the plant by 5:00pm.
Franks meetings with the other long-time employees in Materials were less congenial. A few were rancorous, with employees alternately stunned, angry and saddened. Small upward adjustments in severance packages, fulsome reference letters and liberal applications of the Teachers bottle facilitated the process. They couldnt complain too much, having substantially augmented their income over the years with supplier perks and small kickbacks. So in Materials, in the first week, Frank stayed close to budget and got his releases.
In Engineering Frank didnt know what to expect. Al had enigmatically indicated on his retain list, Give him what he wants. He, was Rick Stafford, the thirty-four-year-old Director of Engineering, formerly with Bozeman International, a recreational products giant. Al had personally hired him two years before without bothering to have Frank vet him. Stafford, in turn, did all his own hiring, firing and promotion of engineers, leaving only the final paperwork for Frank. He hired young industrial engineers with M.B.A.s. As for the actual engineering, they could have been designing Frisbees for all Frank knew.
Frank and Stafford met in Staffords office in the executive suite. The office had the same arrangement as did Als with the window behind the desk. During the opening exchange of insincere pleasantries, Frank strolled over and closed the blinds, to Staffords obvious annoyance. Frank sat down and looked at Stafford. The Director of Engineering wore a Ralph Lauren continental cut, three-button suit with coordinated shirt and tie. Stafford looked back through designer glasses at Franks old worsted herringbone. He steepled his fingers and waited.
Rick, I presume youve heard we didnt get the Defense contract. I dont know what you and Al have discussed but we need your department to share in the cut-backs. I would suggest that .
Morgan, Pulaski and Schecter.
Morgan, Pulaski and Schecter. Al, Haber and I talked it over. Thats who goes.
Rick. Be reasonable. Number one, I need at least six of your people to have anything left in the budget for salaried production severances. And number two, Morgan is a rookie, but Pulaski and Schecter have been with us for fifteen years.
Number one, thats your problem, and, number two, thats their problem. Now, is there anything else you want to discuss, Frank?
Frank did a slow burn. What did this guy have on Al? No. Do you want me to tell them?
No Frank, Ill take care of it. If thats all, Ive got some calls to make.
Frank got up to leave and Rick turned to raise the shades. Frank thought, Oh, one more thing. Go fuck yourself.
Next came the hourly production work force. This would be relatively straightforward albeit just as grim as the rest of his assignment. The union contract provided for up to one-year supplemental payments to hourly employees' unemployment benefits if they had ten years seniority. Low- seniority workers were laid off first without a handshake. Frank stopped at the union reps office on the shop floor, a blind cubicle with frosted glass on the doors and partitions, command post of Stan Speed Szypanski, Chief Steward of Local 236 UAW. Frank knew Stan from the old Polish neighborhood and had been in the local while going to school at night. Speed got his nickname from his favorite bargaining tactic, the slowdown. Move like a fucking snail, as long as you keep moving, he would say to his Local members during an impasse in negotiations. It was more effective than a strike. This resulted in high-wage contracts with good benefits and in turn he worked with Frank to keep peace on the floor.
Yak tam? he greeted Frank in sidewalk Polish. He breathed heavily and his face was florid. His gut, swollen by years of beer and kielbasa, hung over his belt. His gray steel desk was decorated with coffee rings and cigarette burns.
Nie dobrze, Frank replied. He pulled up a chair, straddled it and leaned on the back, facing Speed. You know why Im here.
Yeah, I know. What took you so long?
Ive been putting it off.
That bad, eh?
So what have we got left?
Just the orders on the books. Theyll be done in two, three months, even at your pace. Then I can give a few guys a couple more months on maintenance and security during the transition, if we get sold.
I dont know if Al knows yet. Maybe Raytheon. I heard they got the contract. They could use some of our setups. But theyre in California.
Yeah, well, maybe some of the younger guys might go there and try to hire on but Im too old to move. As if for emphasis, he lapsed into twenty seconds of hacking cough. Im going to take early retirement, he wheezed. Go fishin.
He hadnt fished in thirty years, thought Frank. And I made that stuff up about Raytheon. But you have to say something.
Well, I guess thats it, Speed. You want a drink? Ive got some scotch in the office. Ill bring it over.
Im way ahead of you, Speed said. He reached down and pulled out a pint of Old Grandad that was half empty, unscrewed the top and offered the bottle to Frank. Frank took the bottle, sucked it back and, his eyes watering, handed it to Speed.
Thanks. Hey, who knows, said Frank, maybe the old man will find something else and get us back in business.
Yeah. And maybe Ill catch a fish. Ill post the news in the shop. You can start sending out the notices.
So long, Stahsh. When Frank walked out the bottle was still on the desk.
Now came the worst of it, the Production salaried staff, twelve supervisors, four general supervisors and two production managers. Except for a few youngsters earmarked by Al, all the supervisors had to go for Frank to make his budget. And he had to get them to sign off. This would be very tough with the older supervisors. They would have to be convinced this was the end. They would believe him because they trusted him. And how could it be anything but the end? Even if there were a buyer, how many of those retained would survive long past the transition? Why sacrifice a sure three months' severance pay for a speculative lawsuit for six months' pay?
Frank worked on them for three weeks. He squeezed a few more months' severance pay out of Al. He told them there was a three-week deadline on the offer. The Teachers bottle got replaced a few times. At the end of three weeks, Frank had signed releases from all of the supervisors. By that time, he was no longer just having drinks with the laid-off employees to soften the blow. He was just drinking, as much as he had before his wife divorced him four years earlier. He told himself he would stop when it was over. It was almost over.
There was one meeting left and Frank dreaded it. It was with Will Partridge, one of the two Production Managers. Frank tried to save him but Al said no. On the job market Will would have four strikes against him. He was black. He was over fifty. He had no college degree. And as of late he was in poor health. Against that he was the best Production Manager Frank had ever seen. Over the past eighteen years, Frank had pushed for Wills promotions from line worker to supervisor to general supervisor to production manager. Will had an ability to get people to do things without pissing them off. He listened. He accepted people on their own terms. He ignored petty foibles and constantly encouraged and reinforced. The Union rarely grieved his decisions. He worked twelve hours a day. Lately, Frank had seen him limping and occasionally sitting down which Will had never done before. Frank called Will into his office on Friday of the third week.
William, thanks for coming over. Have a seat. How are things on the floor?
Not great, Frank, but were managing. Everybodys pretty down, but theyre not bitter. Theyre doing a good job on these last orders. You know, Frank, youve handled this in a very fine manner, just like you have always done, and they appreciate it. I hate to see them go but I suppose it had to be done, right?
Will was looking directly into Franks eyes. And now, Frank, whats happening with the company? Where do we go?
Frank struggled not to look down. He owed that to Will. He heard himself say: Youre not going, Will. Im sorry.
Will blinked, but continued to look at Frank. Then he let his gaze wander very slowly around the room before it came to rest on Frank again. Why? he whispered.
Frank shook his head slowly.
Frank nodded. Yes, Al.
Will was taking deep breaths. He looked at nothing in particular on Franks desk. Frank got out the bottle and glasses and poured a drink into one of them. Will waved off the drink.
I cant drink any more, Frank. No point in hiding it now. Ive been diagnosed as diabetic. It affects circulation. My legs are killing me. But I had to get one more year to qualify for full retirement. I told myself that if I do the work, then Im not sick. So I did the work. But time picks your pocket. I cant stand for twelve hours any more. I cant run from job to job. I tried different shoes, support hose, pain pills anything to hide the problem. But I showed up. And Frank, whatever the cost, I could have made one more year.
Id have let you do it in a wheelchair.
I know, Frank. He shook his head. But it just wasnt meant to be, eh? And Harvey? Will asked, referring to the other thirty-year-old Production Manager hired by Al on Staffords advice. He stays?
Yeah. Al says its because of his degree.
Will shook his head. I trained the son-of-a-bitch. Degree or no degree, he didnt know shit. Never did learn how to handle people. Now hes in and Im out. Son of a bitch.
Will, Ive got a little money. Less than I wanted. Five months severance with paid benefits. Frank picked up the release form.
Five months. Thats all, eh?
You can see the blood on the paper from where I got Al up from three.
And the shows really over?
Fraid so, Will.
Well, Frank, if you say so. Ive always trusted you. Lets see the form. Frank handed him the release and Will looked at it a long time. They really sew you up in these, dont they?
Thats Haber in Legal. No loopholes, he says.
Jesus. What am I gonna do? Maybe I can sell shoes with my brother. At least I get to sit down. He signed the paper and handed it back. Frank raised his glass.
Youre the best, Will, no matter what.
Will rose to shake hands. Frank, Im sorriest Im not going to be working with you. Im glad youre staying though. You deserve it.
Thanks Will, Frank said, wondering if Will was right.
Dont worry. Ill make sure the final orders are taken dare of. And Ill stop and see you before I go.
In the following week Frank busied himself with preparing payoffs, sending COBRA benefit continuation option letters, processing retirement applications and writing letters of recommendation. He still hadnt heard from Al about his own situation.
He still drank.
He tried repeatedly to see the CEO but was put off until one week after the last release was signed. Then Als secretary called him and told him to report to Al right away. He knocked back a stiff one and crossed the floor to the stairs. When Frank entered the office, Al seemed relaxed and pleased.
Frank, sit down. Sorry Ive been so busy. So how did it go? Do we have all the releases?
Good. I knew you could do it. Have all the revocation periods expired?
Excellent. Frank, now Id like you to
Frank cut in. Al. Be straight with me. Do I go next?
Al regarded Frank with a look conveying surprise, concern and affection. No, Frank, you most certainly do not, he said softly, folding his hands on the desk and leaning slightly forward. You have performed a great service to me and to the company, greater than you know. It was imperative that we avoid lawsuits and their attendant publicity at this time. And your service will not be forgotten. He leaned back in his chair and allowed an impish grin. I know I was a little rough with you a few weeks ago. But Frank, I had to be. There was a lot at stake and sometimes you need to be pushed. The fact of the matter is, Frank, youre a softy. Thats both you strength and your weakness. Only you could have gotten all those employees to sign off because they like you, and they trust you. And now we can go forward.
Forward? Frank thought. Where?
Yes, Frank, forward. And youre coming with us.
Al. We didnt get the contract. Were on the block. What are you talking about?
Al leaned on the desk again and looked hard at Frank. No, we didnt get the contract, Frank, because we didnt want it. We deliberately overbid.
Theyve got something else, thought Frank.
Weve got something else, said the CEO. He chuckled. Were private sector now, Frank. Weve been working on it for two years.
We? Two years?
The company is going to produce a civilian model of the AT-40 as a subsidiary of our buyer, who is financing the conversion. Theyve got the cash and weve got the know-how. The profit margin will far exceed that allowed by the government.
And whos the lucky buyer? Franks palms began to sweat.
Bozeman International. Quietly. In six months. Production begins in twelve months.
Bozeman. Stafford. Frank felt ill. Al, why the layoffs?
That was part of the deal, Frank. We had to cut down to the bone and start over or they wouldnt buy. They wanted a young, lean, mean management team and non-unionized hourly employees.
But the Union has recall rights.
Not in Mexico they dont. The plant is being built in Juarez, across the river from El Paso. Administration and Engineering will stay here. Production costs will be a third of what they are now. And theres a market in Mexico for converted military hardware, if you know what I mean. Well be adding an extra zero to the profit figure and to your salary too, Frank. Plus bonuses and stock options. Of course therell be some travel and you might have to learn some Spanish.
Frank felt the nausea rising. Al. My god. All those people we let go. How could you do that?
The CEOs face clouded. He absently picked up the letter opener and slowly turned his chair forty-five degrees to the right, then gently swung back and forth a few times, like a large boat drifting at anchor. Frank, what pictures do you have on your desk?
Of course. Theyre your family. Do you know what pictures I have on my desk, Frank?
Frank couldnt remember and could only see the backs of the frames.
Yours, Frank. And Harkness. And Stafford. And my other Directors and Vice Presidents.
The annual dinner pictures, Frank thought.
The company. Thats my family, Frank. And I take care of my family. He turned the chair to face Frank with a look of intense concern, almost pleading. Dont you see, Frank? Were Fortune 500 now. Were players. Theres no turning back. And I want you on board. Are you with us?
Frank looked at Al until he couldnt look any more. He got up. His legs were weak. Ive got to finish some benefit packages, Al. Can we talk about this tomorrow? He turned and walked out without waiting for a reply. There wasnt any.
On the way back through the plant, Frank tried to understand his own reactions. He should have smiled with relief and congratulated Al. That should have been a no-brainer. But it wasnt. Why not? He had been nimble all these years, dancing on the broken tiles, liked by the employees, and paid by the bosses. Now, the music had stopped and he didnt know whom to go home with.
It was after 4:00 pm when Frank walked in his office and closed the door. He told his secretary to hold his calls. He opened the window and took several long breaths of cold December air. The parking lot was already starting to empty out. Trash blew around and gathered in drifts against the fence. Frank watched the traffic on Eight Mile Road for a long time. No people, just cars. It used to be easy to forget about people once they got into their cars. Why couldnt he do it now? Why were their faces still in his head? He had gotten old, like them. He had lost the knack of self-deceit so essential to his position. Time picks your pocket.
He turned off the light and watched the headlights come on, competing with the last grimy glow of dusk. Then he walked to his desk, turned on the desk lamp, looked up a number in the phone directory, picked up the phone and dialed.
Is Mr. Carver there?
Who shall I say is calling?
Frank Tobias. The H.R. Director at ATKO. Hes taken my deposition a couple of times.
Just a moment.
Carver came on. Mr. Tobias. This is a surprise. What can I do for you?
You know about our layoffs.?
Yes I do. Its a shame to see the company go down.
I need to talk to you, Mr. Carver. Now.
Its after five Mr. Tobias. I was just getting ready to leave.
There are other lawyers, Mr. Carver.
There was a pause, then a sigh.
Okay, Mr. Tobias. Talk to me.
Frank told him the whole story. Carver rarely interrupted. It took about twenty minutes. When Frank stopped, Carver said,
Thats it. Right up to me picking up the phone twenty minutes ago.
What do you want, Mr. Tobias?
What can be done?
He heard Carver breathing. Frank knew he was thinking. He wasnt going to rush him.
Releases are hard nuts to crack in court, Carver said, speaking deliberately, like a man laying bricks. The theory would have to be that there was fraud in the inducement to sign, regarding the prospects of the company. My guess is that they havent put anything in writing with Bozeman yet. They wouldnt be that stupid. And if they have, it would probably disappear the minute they got served with a lawsuit. Brennan will deny everything he said to you. It would be your word against his. You would be the linchpin of any litigation by laid-off employees. If such a suit survived initial motions to dismiss, my guess is that the Bozeman plan is so potentially profitable to Bozeman and Atko that it might lead to the companys reconsideration and modification of its layoffs as a settlement proposal, offering more jobs to the older employees or upping the severance offers or both rather than risk going to trial. Thats the five-minute answer. There are a myriad other legal issues I wont bore you with.
I see. So what do I do?
Thats an interesting question, Mr. Tobias. Tell me, are you well-off? Do you have lots of money?
No. I owe lots of money.
I was afraid youd say that. Because if you participate in any litigation on behalf of laid-off employees Brennan will probably fire you. And I can try, but I cant guarantee, that I can get your job back or get damages for you. Im sure you know what your chances are for employment in your profession after that.
I can imagine.
And theres always the chance that your selfless sacrifice might just lead to the scuttling of the Bozeman plan and the companys actual termination.
I hear you.
Now, I really must go. I will be available tomorrow for any terminated employee who wishes to pursue the matter. Good night, Mr. Tobias.
Good night, Mr. Carver, and thank you for your time.
Frank turned off the light and sat in the dark, thinking. He thought about his daughters tuition, his mortgage, his alimony payments and the Sea Ray Runabout. He saw himself in line at the State Employment Security Office. He thought about Al Brennan and Rick Stafford. He thought about Will Partridge.
He turned the light back on, turned on the P.C. and copied a list of the laid-off and retained salaried employees to an external drive and put it in his briefcase. He called Will Partridge, got his voice mail and left a message to call back later. Then he took the bottle of scotch from his desk drawer, went to the sink in the mens room and poured it out. He put on his coat, turned out the light and walked down the corridor to the parking lot entrance of the front offices. The floodlights in the lot were out and the security shack was empty. The starless night hid the trash blowing in the cold wind. At the doorway, Frank looked up at the executive suite windows. The lights were still on. He looked down, pulled up his collar, and stepped into the dark.
By Dennis James
This Land is My Land
Hey, buddy, you must be kidding.
It belongs to the ammunition makers, who talk in gunshot holes in the head. Bones don't talk back.
It belongs to power: the power to make babies cry for milk
while the rich get tax breaks.
It belongs to the 5%, who own 80% of everything,
cutting the people into the haves and have-nots in middle-income
developments, leaving them to claw each other like lions over a carcass, while the 5% blow up balloons as big as the Empire State building and party on Ecstacy ...
It was destroyed by the Florida election of 2000: Blacks physically blocked from
voting, (not in a jigsaw-puzzled doc movie) deprived of their 14th and 15th amendments; that injustice can never be amended. When I say amended I mean abrogated, annulled or abolished. The old Jews who dragged them selves in spite of not being able to breathe. their legs hurting when they moved them; their voices were never counted.
It was destroyed by the lies corroding one's brain,
as an excuse for stealing the power to declare war from Congress.
He played deaf, as dictators do, and stole the will of the people, even though they roared. He didn't have to kick his way through the untagged rib cages and legs of soldiers and civilians.
It was destroyed by leaving the people in New Orleans to float because the National Guard and ghetto kids were recruited for war.
It was destroyed by spending money for war and leaving my friends with no health insurance, in a circle of death.
It was destroyed by the blood in the Coke. Doesn't it taste funny?
It was added to the mixture when Coca-Cola killed union organizers in Latin America.
There is some strange fruit hanging on that tree of liberty,
Hey. buddy. can you spare a dime?
By Judie David
I write my poems for the poor and destitute
in the ruins of row homes
and paint-peeling park benches,
backs pinned to hard wood and concrete
like angels stuck on flypaper.
I write my poems for the homeless and friendless,
parched by the sun of the searing day,
freezing in the chill of the callous night
as the cold slices skin like razors
and indifference multiplies
like malignant cells.
I write my poems for the working people
slaving in the heat of the cavernous foundry,
humping crates in eternitys shipyard,
coughing in mines deep underground,
farming our food and harvesting life,
laying bricks at the noise-drenched construction site
like Sisyphus pushing his boulder
up that lonely hill in hell.
I write my poems for the heartbroken and loveless,
alone in Spring while youthful lovers dance
with smiles stretched across their luminous faces,
unintentionally mocking with each chipper step,
while others feel passed over
like unwanted items on a grocery shelf.
I write my poems for the used and abused,
lying alone in beds like deserts
next to phantom spaces,
the ghosts of former loves,
blankets wet with tears
siphoned out like blood
through the needles of rejection
as they howl their despair into the emptiness.
I write my poems for the hated masses,
for everyone whos been the butt of jokes
or the target of racial slurs like buckshot
that rips through skin with deadly humor,
boiling blood to hatred
and flooding the world with tsunamis of anger.
I write my poems for the underdogs
whove been filed away in cabinets of ignorance
in the basements of discounted contributions,
or murdered in a bitter split second,
lives ended and hanging from trees
because of their skin color or their beliefs
or their just being who they were born to be.
I write my poems for the aging sages,
the widows and the widowers
brushed aside after a centurys build-up
of residual heartbreak,
like layers of rock in an ancient canyon,
sliced through by times persistent river.
I write my poems for the diseased and broken,
waiting through daytime television monotony
that goes on like the crackling of a scratched record,
IV tubes hanging from limp arms,
eyes fixed on humming screens
beneath fluorescent lights,
like specimens under microscopes,
helpless like newborns.
I write my poems for the prisoners
living out their lives in concrete closets,
in rows of chicken-coop cells,
dreams locked behind steel bars;
they traded their lives
for liquor store cash,
and now they pay the price
as the years blend together
and disappear like dirty water
down a shower drain.
I write my poems for the desperate addicts
like perforated pincushions
looking for fixes to fill the holes
that their souls are leaking out from,
as smoke and poison
snake through their skeletal bodies
that once shone with childhood smiles,
now with curtains of despair pulled down
over once-bright eyes.
I write my poems for the hungry and thirsty,
standing helpless in lifes searing deserts,
bellies swollen and eyes crying darkness
where the wells are dry
like sun-bleached bones,
and the food is sparse
like stars in daylight.
I write my poems for the discouraged dreamers
whose hope was swept up
into the dustpan of competition
and thrown into a wastebasket
full of crumpled poems, broken sculptures,
faded paintings, and unsung songs.
I write my poems for the deserted citizens,
ignored by the leaders they trusted their lives with,
whove traded their visions of a peaceful world
for golden calves and fistfuls of power,
and the people woke up one fog light morning
to find that their rights had been stolen
out of their tired midnight dreams.
I write my poems for the steadfast soldiers
shielding us on the worlds front lines,
in sandstorm deserts and treacherous mountains,
taking our bullets for us bravely
while we try to sort out this mess weve made
of the worlds fragile balance.
I write my poems for the frightened boys,
unsure why the bullets are coming their way,
dealing out death with icy indifference,
hands shaking as they trudge through the blood,
the surreal death worse than a horror film come to life,
but they fight through the confusion
for their friends and families.
I write my poems for the peaceful protesters
and the anti-war activists
who fight Moloch with picket signs,
attack Ares with words and songs,
and are ridiculed, jailed, and murdered like martyrs
for standing up for peace in a world of chaos
where dollar signs and land masses
are more important than children
and innocence is washed away with blood.
I write my poems for the wary skeptics
whove been turned away from religion
by humans pushing their selfish agendas;
I hope one day theyll see the Jesus I see
and not the Pharisees hiding in sterile white buildings,
hoarding money like ancient misers,
writing laws where souls once were,
and replacing love with pointing fingers.
I write my poems for the artists and poets
sending their words through history
like transmissions to faraway planets:
one day well die, stricken by disease,
or well be shot down like crippled horses,
or well be locked in cells
where well etch days into the walls,
and well be like snowflakes in a blizzard,
settling into warm, calm waters,
but our words will be like beacons,
flickering like candles,
helping hands stretching
through the murky swamps of life,
twinkling like constellations,
so I have a message
for everyone now and in the future,
the addicted, brokenhearted,
poor, and forgotten:
long ago, I was you,
and I made it through.
By Michael Monroe
for 8 yrs
he & i never spoke to each other.
i'd walk my dog shuku by & he'd be
waiting for the schoolbus to bring him
his oldest kid
then his middle kid
& finally now his youngest kid. he'd
sit in that rusted smokefilled '65
k-woody & listen to the country hits.
i pulled my car up next to his. he was
scraping birdshit off the windshield.
"beautiful day," he said to the birdshit.
"yea," i said to his birdshit.
"noticed your sticker" he said "the one
that says 'make love, not war'''.
"yeah, my wife gave it to me for my
birthday" i said. "she was trying to
tell me something". then i looked at his
sticker. it said 'bring home the pows'.
"ya know," he said, "i went to war so guys
like you could have the right to say what
ever you say.
"yeah," i said. "i know. i fought my own
war so as guys like you could stop getting
shot at for guys like me".
we both were quiet for a bit.
i scraped some birdshit off my own
he looked at my gray beard
i looked at his
"some sh it, ,. he said
"some shit," i said
"i like your dog," he said
"thanks," i said
& we both nodded our heads.
I'm a son, product, and spawn of America.
Born and raised. My America.
A beautiful Machiavellian dystopia.
The dirty, raw, reality.
Wake up from your naivete.
Look beyond your microcosm.
Your imagined bubble world.
Unemployment on the rise.
Jobs have been outsourced overseas.
We're in a second depression.
Hordes of poor folks waiting desperately.
Starving and hungry.
In line at soup kitchens.
In line at welfare offices.
In line at food pantries.
Sleeping in boxes, in alleys, in dumpsters.
Sleeping in shelters and flophouses.
Sleeping in cars, in stairwells, in libraries, in tents in the woods.
Sleeping on couches, on buses, under bridges, in the gutter.
Living and dying in festering slums.
The victims of capitalism.
Almost all are either insane and or down-and-out.
Struck by situational hard luck and hard times. It happens. Believe me. I've been there.
Some, a few, are on the streets by choice.
Some, a few, are professionally poor and or homeless.
It's really sad, many are veterans.
Is this how we repay are brave men and womans service?
Is this how we repay those that have, or are, fighting in our imperialist wars?
Don't get me wrong, coming from a fellow vet.
I won't put all are current or past military servicemen on too high of a undeserved pedestal.
Most I met when I was in, were sweaty mud-toilers. Ignorant and easily led.
They wanted to and needed to serve and be obedient.
They relished, with a wagging tail, being treated like a dog, by officers, and upper enlisted alike.
Almost all were: uneducated, ignorant, crude, degenerate, egotistical, and violent.
For most of them, tragically, there is no salvation.
Sadly, they're too far gone.
Bar-coded and micro-chipped.
Institutionalized and lied to.
A deadly product.
The system has programmed and designed them well.
There is nothing romantic or glorifying about serving in the US military.
They have and had almost nothing to lose.
They were desperate and saw some hope.
They were and are defending you and your decadent lifestyle.
Not mine, yours.
Going to war for all you coward, armchair-generals.
That have never or will never serve in the armed services.
That went to college.
That were members of lame, weak, frats and sororities.
That can afford fat-cat luxuries and have extra time and money to waste.
That live in delightful mansions and homes.
That own yachts and boats.
That golf and are members of country clubs.
That drive nice, brand-new, cars.
That have safe, comfortable, cushy lives, full of toys.
That don't know the meaning of strife or struggle or hate or hard work.
That had a head start, due to: money, education, upbringing, and nepotism.
That have warm, comfy beds to sleep in at night.
That have attractive and well-educated significant others and playthings.
That will procreate more selfish, capitalist, food-tubes that will blight this planet.
That actually have something to lose, other than their lives.
You fight, toil, cry, sweat, bleed, and die for them.
The haves, that have and control it all.
Without you, the have-nots,
The haves wouldn't have or be anything.
You make, defend, and sustain them.
You let them thrive and prosper.
You believe all their lies and in their fairy-tale Cinderella myths.
They string you along with glimpses of a imaginary dream and pieces of pie.
They give you just enough to keep you content and non-threatening.
But, never enough to rise up, compete with, or join their ranks.
Like it's always been.
The rich start the wars.
Wealthy, bitter, old men.
The poor fight and die in them.
Everything boils down to economics.
Americans angry, cussing, and screaming.
They should be angry.
Americans drunk or high.
Americans damaged and or ruined.
People going mad.
Hollow-eyed and empty.
Feeling despair and dread.
Beaten down and tired.
So many tears.
So much sorrow.
Lives of static and fluctuating misery.
The living dead. TV zombie-nation.
The survivors getting devoured by undead monstruosities daily.
Please trying to go back to sleep.
Trying to escape the waking nightmare.
Mass, herd, conformity.
The shepherds leading the flock.
Putting the hacks, the inept, the undeserving, the talentless,
on thrones to kneel to.
You have and had too much.
Way too many excesses and indulgences.
With their narcissism and self-absorption.
With their safe sedation and escapism.
With their minds shrouded from reality and evading truth.
With their inane concerns and their lives completely driven by self-interest.
With their pretensions and superficial facades.
With their lack of communication.
With their antiquated and reactionary ideals (political and religious beliefs).
With their numb and emotionally stunted hearts.
With their non-offensive, non-controversial, tepid tastes.
With their mimicked and parroted speech, opinions, and thought processes.
With their mindless hedonism and desires.
With their overweight, obese, and unfit bodies.
With their ugliness inside and or out.
With their overcompensations.
With their banality and well over-worn cliches.
With their avarice.
With their corruption.
With their selfishness and depravity.
With their hypocrisy.
With their celebration of and trumping the physical over the mental.
With their polarized and extremist politics.
With their calloused apathy.
With their schadenfreude.
With their bullying and kicking those that are down.
With their materialism and consumerism.
With their political correctness.
With their racism, sexism, class-ism, and homophobia.
With their stupidity, a national and cultural virtue.
With their blind ignorance.
With their lives vicariously lived because they're afraid to take chances.
With their laws.
With their government.
With their pseudo-freedoms.
With their non-rehabilitative prisons.
With their numerous gangs,
With their pointless violence.
With their misdirected hate.
With their draconian-empire.
Without pacifiers and fear.
Without the coliseums, the gladiatorial games, the chariot races.
There would be revolt and chaos.
We're teetering on the verge of collapse.
All great empires will crumble.
America the Neo-Rome.
The founding fathers are rolling in their graves.
It's a heart-breaking tragedy.
Start preparing the best that you can.
Your alarm clock is ringing.
Time to wake up to this reality.
You can wipe the sleep sand from you eyes.
Start to contribute and do your part to salvage it.
Change this country for the better.
Change this country for your children and grandchildren's sake.
It's going to be very tough.
A great sacrifice will have to be made.
You're going to have to grow some balls and stand up.
Or, you can push the snooze button and go back to sleep.
If you want to.
By Brian Shaver
The hunter and the hunted
Some employees take days (or weeks or months!)
to be ripped apart by Management
before they can be consumed and then disposed.
Long-time employees and those higher-paid --
Targets of vicious verbal and nonverbal abuse.
These employees -- the most vulnerable and
the first to attract such lethal attacks.
Management relies on its tail like an alligator
to deliver its deadly blows to its prey.
(On occasion, an employee will just disappear
without a fight.)
Management ... endlessly on the move
in times of financial distress,
clothed with darkness and feeling safe.
(It does not realize that everything about them
Management believes power lies in its paychecks.
Employees believe power lies in the unity of
spirits and hearts.
By Judith L. Lundin
Nothing permanent except change
Roman imperialism, perfect candidate
for perpetuity, except for
and the veni-vidi-vici drive
which weakened it so severely
that Goths and Vandals
it thought conquered
and destroyed it.
Feudalism, set to last forever,
its stability resting on inequality
swords and crossbows
for the lords,
clubs and pitchforks
for the serfs,
and on a deep numbness
due to ignorance,
Breached from the middle,
Capitalism tramples all suggestions
it wont last forever,
declares itself the paradigm
of economic systems,
but its not the landing,
its just another stair
on the tide surging
toward the future,
and it, too, will be destroyed
by the very conditions it creates
canyons of unemployment,
and willful destruction
of the world.
Nothing lives forever,
By Barbara Gregorich
Lois Scott knew
Vultures feasted unfettered on suffocated miners
in the bottomless Harlan county pits of 1973.
No gravediggers required.
I. Lois Scott. broke the waters of outrage,
inundating a no-strike contract.
Lack of running water, outhouses couldn't do it.
I violently rocked the men.
when the paid killers showed their guns:
I called out all the women.
I led them in singing
"Which Side are You On?
their grandmothers' anthem of 1931.
impregnated to their souls. they followed me
on the line,
igniting their anger,
like a bowling ball channeled,
while I cradled them
under my tent. I smiled, they said: "We're with you, Lois."
The women urged the others
to push out new babies
screaming for what is theirs.
I christened the strike,
pulling a revolver
from my bra, on the copper-splattered ground.
We could see our men's red eyes:
no sleeping, drinking,
The ominous night clawed
its outer limit.
Light seeped in one shade at a time.
The eagles shot through that last slice,
The women trembled; ready to go on the line.
Our men answered.
By Judie David
time marches on us and over us
it grinds us to dust
with the steel-shod boots of eternity.
but the dust rises up
glittering in the sun
itself reflected in the stars.
By Rand W. Gould
Mount Correctional Facility
17601 Mound Rd.
Detroit, MI 48212