— with thanks and apologies to Allen Ginsberg
by Richard Downing
I have seen the smallest wallets of my generation opened for the gold man, sacks
of money taken from the people by the people
who could because they wrote the laws they did not break,
who could because they bought the rating services
who looked at what they had to sell and said it was good,
very very good,
who put a middle class into dream homes that drowned beneath derivative waves
and magic numbers that made those houses disappear, vanish to the place
where jobs and pensions go to die.
Why is Henry Paulson not in prison?
Why is George W. Bush not in prison?
Why is Dick Cheney’s heart an artificial muscle?
Where are the 4500 hundred who left for Iraq?
Why were the coffins covered with flags and from view?
Why are our President’s financial advisors Wall Street’s financial advisors?
Why do we have Citizens United?
Why can’t we have citizens united?
Who is Justice Alito…or is that an oxymoron?
Who is Clarence Thomas? Is he Justice Alito?
Or Anthony Scalia? They look so alike inside their black robes.
How does John Roberts comb his hair?
Does he comb his hair or does it just stay fixed and heavy on his head
like a mortgage?
Where is Thurgood Marshall?
Where is Thomas Jefferson? Why is no he longer inside Texas school books?
Why do we have a Supreme Court?
Do we have a Supreme Court?
Why don’t we have a Supreme Being who will smite the Supreme Court
we don’t have? Or is that what He intends to do in due time?
Can we vote on that? May we? I’m asking nicely here.
Who are all these people in the parks? Why are all these people in the parks?
Why aren’t they all young or all old? Why aren’t they all straight or all gay
Why do they vote with their fingers? Why do they sleep in tents?
Don’t they know it’s growing cold?
Don’t they know that their behavior is…different,
that people will talk, that they’re already talking,
that so many people are already talking,
that this behavior is contagious, dangerous, likely to spread?
Why are they in my town? I’ve been told to be afraid. FOX News has warned me
of the violence that will follow. Why do FOX News anchors all sound alike?
Why is their hair perfect? Are they Supreme Courst justices?
I thought there were only nine. Why aren’t Sean and Bill be-robed?
Is “be-robed” a word? Will Sean and Bill know if it’s a word?
What if it isn’t and they don’t know that it isn’t
and they still make binding decisions for an elderly audience who,
God knows, doesn’t need more binding? Who does at that age?
Why am I down in the park again tonight?
Why am I waving my fingers upward like a demented mime?
Why am I smiling when it’s so godamned cold outside?
Why am I talking to strangers who are older and younger than I and dress in ways
I never would except for those who dress exactly like me?
Does my mother know where I am? Is she with Sean or Bill?
Why am I coming back tomorrow? Why do I know that…
I am with you in Zuccotti Park
where the rain becomes sleet and the numbers grow.
I am with you in Oakland
where an Iraq veteran lies wounded and the numbers grow around him.
I am with you in the small towns of Tennessee and North Carolina and Oklahoma
where permits and policies and curfews are the order
of the day and still the numbers grow.
I am with you in Europe and beyond
where America’s true democracy is finally being recognized.
I am with you as we walk dripping from tents and sweat on a single highway
with so many lanes across America
to the open door of our cottage beneath a new moon in the Western night.
Richard Downing has won the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Poetry Prize, Writecorner Press’ 2010 Editors Award, and New Delta Review’s Matt Clark Prize. He has poems in numerous journals and in the anthologies Hunger Enough: Living Spiritually in a Consumer Society, The Dire Elegies, and Against Agamemnon: War Poems. He is co-founder of local peace and environmental groups, has a PhD in English and a chapbook, Four Steps Off the Path, from YellowJacket Press.