What Ails America (Day 1)

(Today is the first day of National Poetry Writing Month, where we are asked to write thirty poems in thirty days.)

Not to be a tragic person. What is a tragic person? The victim of a crime
who does not realize the criminal is himself.

from “Brief Lives” by Ken Chen

Every time I talk to my father, he
tells me some story of welfare abuse

a woman who convinces the
school that her child is mentally
handicapped so the kid will receive
special treatment and a regular
check from Uncle Sam

a rehabilitated drug addict who
won’t work full time because he’ll
lose his disability money

untold numbers of people who have
brand new televisions and cell phones
who smoke two packs a day and drink
a bottle of Jack Daniels every night
even though they are behind on rent
for their rusted out single-wide trailer
and their children are wearing too-small
third generation hand-me-downs

These lives do not sound cushy and
pleasant to me, even with that new IOS
update and an HBO subscription. You
work a low wage menial job and then
go home to your should-be-
condemned place, where you have to
deal with your son, who’s been acting
like a moron ever since you told him to
play that up for the social worker and
the only thing keeping you from
really beating his ass is the nicotine
rush and getting bombed while
watching high-def pro wrestling.

I am amazed, I tell Dad, that anyone
could live like that, that their dreams
are no bigger than food stamps and
Candy Crush. I see the welfare money
almost as compensation for the
poverty of their ambitions. What
we need is not an end to the
social safety net, but a works project
that rebuilds the imagination until
the future appears bigger than the
Hoover Dam and the rushing waters
it holds at bay power the neon lights
of curiosity and exploration that
spread like an oasis through the arid
dark of the surrounding desert night.

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About semiblind

Bringing you stark existentialism since 1981.
This entry was posted in family, NaPoWriMo, observations, people, poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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