Wednesday November 26th, 2014, 11:21 pm (EST)

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The poor are no longer with us; These bills are long unpaid

The poor are no longer with us

No one’s poor any longer. Listen
to politicians. They mourn the middle
class which is shrinking as we watch
in the mirror. The poor have been

discarded already into the oblivion
pail of not to be spoken words.
They are as lepers were treated once,
to be shipped off to fortified islands

of the mind to rot quietly. If
poverty is a disease, quarantine
its victims. If it’s a social problem
imprison them behind high walls.

Maybe its genetic: how often they
catch easily preventable diseases.
Feed them fast garbage and they’ll
die before their care can cost you,

of heart attacks, stroke. Provide
cheap guns and they’ll kill each
other well out of your sight.
Ghettos are such dangerous places.

Give them schools that teach
them how stupid they are. But
always pretend they don’t exist
because they don’t buy enough,

spend enough, give you bribes
or contributions. No ads target
their feeble credit. They are not
real people like corporations.

These bills are long unpaid

To predict disaster, to invoke treachery
and malice, to spin tales of rotten
luck to make it not happen:
it doesn’t work.

The wind is still rising with hail
in its teeth. The waves are piling up
then spilling back way, way baring
bottom you’ve never seen.

There’s ashes in the wind, darling,
a taste of ashes in our food
ashes on our lips in bed
eyes blinded with ash.

There’s a mortgage on my spine
I cannot pay. Somebody has
bought my teeth and wants them
out tomorrow for dice.

There are real monsters under
the bed, hungry for blood. They own
the land this house stands on
to stripmine for coal.

Santa isn’t coming. The bounty
hunter is. There’s a lien on your
ass and the bank is itchy to fore
close your future.

If you’re going to stand get up.
If you’re going to fight, get moving.
Nothing comes to those who wait
but hunger’s claws

digging into the soft belly. If you
value your blood, fight to keep
it in your veins. You have nothing
to lose but your life

and it was sold to them decades
ago by your parents’ parents.
Their greed is endless. Your
patience shouldn’t be.

Marge Piercy is the author of eighteen poetry books, most recently The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems, 1980–2010 from Knopf.  Her most recent novel is Sex Wars (Harper Perennial) and PM Press has just republished Vida and Dance the Eagle to Sleep with new introductions.

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