Poetry, October 2009


Poverty Sucks

"We have the right
not to know about the poor",
my student wrote
after I showed the class
photos of people working,
specifically a Haitian cane-cutter,
propped up on his scythe, dead
asleep on his feet.
This particular cane-cutter
earns 5 gourdes for 10 hours
(approximately one dollar a day).
With luck he'll live to be 54:
in Haiti the sun is boss
as well as the bosses.
My student vacations in the Bahamas,
sips his Cuba Libre,
eyes the girls, tans, doesn't see
the sweating Blacks.
Has never seen anyone sweat
at work: not on TV, in videos, in movies.
I should give him no more than a 'D'
(as in dollars disseminate death)
but he still wouldn't get it:
that a man can be so broke
he falls asleep on his feet.

--Maggie Jaffe

'Poverty Sucks' appeared in How the West Was Won (Viet Nam Generation and Burning Cities Press: Tucson, Arizona). Copyright 1997 by Maggie Jaffe, and in the anthology, Seeds of Fire (Smokestack Press, 2007)

Why We Must

because someone once told me
the stars in our sky
burned out long ago
and if one had decided
to turn in early
who knows
i might not have had light
to write this poem tonight

so you never know how much depends
on your bus ride to the march
or what café poets learn
from my piece on Menchú
or how many kids will live
off your vote to hunger strike
or who my toddler nephew tells
of how we demonstrate downtown
or how far into the future
your voice over bullhorns
will carry

but even if you keep on
just to keep on
keeping on
so i can keep my sister
with three babies and rent due
to keep them keeping on
or if my Tata knows
that in board rooms and on picket lines
we'll keep him keeping on

it will be worth the heart
that thumps out of your chest
when you instruct the business man to
step aside
for the young momma on the bus
it will be worth burning oil
over poster board and paint
it will be worth arrests
nervous breakdowns
weary eyes 'cuz
if a fizzled star can shine
for a thousand years or more
then i know we must keep on
because the people will survive
these wars on the Middle East
and when all the madness dies
and you look down on the world
from the place where starlight flickers
someone will bask in your glow
and after night passes
she will rise with dawn
and keep on

--Felicia R. Martinez From Blue Collar Review

A Nice Suburban Neighborhood

It seems maudlin to get sentimental
about a house, yet we all do it.
Even when a crane nibbles
on a building exposing the once
inner walls, they're posters

of a family's life. Sometimes
the demolition people make fences
of doors and you see the marks
of children's growth years, posters
no one had time to take down,

old graffiti: Knock before Entering,
Love Shack, Tim's Batcave. Now
on this street where lawns are turning
to fields again, houses gape.
Deserted dogs roam in packs.

Starving cats crouch under bushes.
This deck is littered with condoms
and a few syringes, beer cans.
That door has been busted open.
Two windows are smashed

and an overstuffed chair leaks
innards to the sidewalk. Three
houses scattered down the block
are still lived in, mortgages paid off
or not yet foreclosed. They live

under siege in this new no man's
or woman's land, murder
of a neighborhood by banks,
by derivatives, by who cares
for those not deemed important.

--Marge Piercy From Blue Collar Review