American Dream

Carolyn Steinhoff Smith


The Absence of The Dead


America is a port in Ghostland;

selves dabble at the edges of the seas,

ride the pages out so many miles, so many years,

who can keep on thinking of them?

On the shelf of clouds that tops the continent

a rift waits for the ones who rise,

those Poor destined to join the Absence

profound, searing, deafening, monumental,

while the fussing and striving of the exalted Rich

grows too scrambled and damaging to bear.

The tumult of Absence is the tumult of Feeling,

of The Dead, The Poor despised, not here, there or anywhere,

of Ghosts without memberships or identification

rattling the doors that are closed and locked against them.

The book of their grievances should be called bursting. 

The weather of their Feeling should be called terrible. 

Some were among The Living last year,

others can exist in dreams.  The Father The Poor Child dreams of

torments his orphan with his eagerness,

with his preference for this one above all the others. 

The mouth of the Son the Poor Mother dreams of

is taped, the anus ruptured with instruments,

ankles bound with shackles; the Bodies

of The Poor are dragged to and from the holes

where The Rich remove them from our sight and mind.

Those Poor Imprisoned, who ran away from America,

whom The Rich mangle for running toward America, 

are not in America�s Dream.  To The Poor America keeps,

she gives the daily miles-deep lowerings into the earth

with no guarantee of return, the extracting and the handling and the breathing

of throat-searing, lung-blackening materials for The Rich to sell,

the rains of expensive venom The Rich of Companies sell to The Rich of Farms

for The Poor to stand under without facemasks or pay,

without sickdays or doctors; to them America gives the standing,

standing, standing in rows in enforced silence

next to and in front of and behind the Other Poor,

everyone sewing, everyone pressing, stamping, lifting,

cutting, spraying, cleaning in The Factories and the Homes and the Mines

millions on millions of times millions on millions of days. 

America forgets that the prices

of the well-cut shoes and the clothing,

of the spotless, tasteless peaches and grapes,

of the flawless peppers, bananas, strawberries

The Rich prefer are so high; The Poor will never afford the products

for which America squanders their lives.


America Remembers


Though there are things The Rich remember.

Every day, numb to their comforts,

insensate to the chasm money opened

and the freefall through it of which their lives consist,

The Rich reread The Laws

that they have written down in their records,

that require the service and refuse the rights

of The Poor, that execute The Poor for crying that They have rights,

that send The Poor to cells for grasping the hands of The Others

and not letting go, that deport The Poor

to Perpetual Struggle and Death for the crime

of untaping their children�s mouths. 

The Rich remember The Jobs

that draw The Poor to The Fields,

to The Orchards and The Pits, The Streets and to The Restaurants

so The Rich can steal their labor and their blood,

can spit on and stone and despise them for their languages,

their poverty and their stranger�s skin. 

Oh, America remembers The Poor all right,

when the poisons The Rich force on them and profit from

bestow cancers that keep The Poor from the labor

The Rich require so their bathrooms,

bigger than the houses of The Poor, will be clean enough,

and their buttocks, softer than the faces of The Poor, will be fresh.

The Women who wipe the shit of The Rich

with the rancor and the chemicals that penetrate their eyes, noses,

mouths and hands year after year are not in America�s thoughts.

The Women and The Children through whose mouths and anuses

and vaginas the plagues enter when The Rich acquire

their water and their food and their bodies

for sex on their way to and from the offices,

America does not dream of these Mothers

whose ministrations The Rich turn to cash,

these Fathers whose bodies they convert to work,

these Daughters and Sons they twist into fodder

to further their wars and their pursuits.  

Only The Children of the Poor

dream of their Fathers far away in America, 

Only The Mothers cry

for the Absence of their Children and their tears

are the sorrow a drunk tells to the grate he falls on,

staggering under the weight of what they know�

one knows what her mother�s face looked like

between the strikes of the boyfriend�s fists,

another, how the tape stuck to her lips burned,

another, how much to drink before he can sleep,

what with the hardness and coldness of the pavement,

another, how hashish brightens the red of the tracers

every tenth bullet carries as it whizzes by.   

Their knowledge is the spit that freezes on their exposed faces,

their grief is the tale a woman driven mad screams to the eyes

enclosed with her in the trains and the stations and the cars.


Beware The Feeling of The Poor


But You Rich who assert your sanity and your solidity,

beware The Feeling that takes its shape in The Poor.

You who raise your highways from the ashes of The Poor�s days,

whose steely behemoths cast tall shadows over the parks

where The Children of the Poor are tossing their rocks and sticks,

you whose towers reflect you in your suits

as you admire yourselves

in their glaring coppery facades,

beware the memories of The Children playing

because they are very long. 

Feeling is the longest weather to which your acts give rise.

The gates of your communities are as matchsticks

and your mansions are as paper before it.

The Feeling You Rich awaken

will jolt you from your drugged sleep.

You will sit bolt upright in your soft, white beds

and say My God, what is that?

What on earth is happening? Because of your blindness

the first you will know of it will be the thundering,

that makes your children run crying in to you. 

When You Rich in your nightgowns go outside,

your children in your arms,

rubbing your eyes to see,

the bodies of The Fathers who�ve payed with their lives

for the love and adventure you sought after in the summers

will be choking your streets like refuse 

with their faces torn and their arms separated and their blood

running through your gutters coursing its way to the seas

and their blood will be your blood too.

On the night your eyes are opened

so the sight of The Children mangled and emaciated

burns itself into your lasiked retinas,

so the sounds of The Mothers screaming out

against the disappearance of God 

rings in your ears and your dreams,

the day seismic Feeling swells into the Earth�s depths

and transgresses the boundaries

between present and past, us and them,

proper and shocking, violence and peace,

on that day your bells will toll for The Poor Earth�s Dead.

The outrage The Child harbors in his belly,

against the slap the soldier of The Rich imprints on his cheek,

against the spectacle of her Mother violated next to her where she lies,

that outrage that is mightier than a memory,

that Grief and Rage that fills the stomachs and the limbs and the sky,

that propels the bodies and the speeches and the ships into every port and part

will take over the thoughts, the nightmares and the clouds,

the stratosphere, where there is no up, down or center. 

The Feeling You Rich evoke

in The Bodies of The Poor penetrates The Earth

and The Bodies grow from and into The Earth

and are one with it in its plundering and its violation.       

Grief flows from its mines and quarries,

from its stopped rivers and from The Poor

swallowed under the swollen waters

and from the depths sucked dry of their water and their oil;

Rage courses the Veins of The Engulfed Poor like liquid fire,

the arteries sending to limbs the energy that knows no bounds,

to hearts driving the labor and refreshing the ground

from which their cities spring, over which the limousines

and Hummers of The Rich roll and gleam,

through the air their jets split with their roaring

and their passengers and their exhaust. 

The feverish bloodstream of The Poor

absorbs the slashes the uniformed officers of The Rich deliver 

to the stomachs of the twelve-year-olds and the eighty-year-olds

and becomes one roiling, fathomless sea;

the rebukes The Rich hurl enter The Body

as one unquenchable fire.

The dirt ground into the faces of The Fathers

when the Officers of The Rich

hold them under their boots against the ground,

that dirt does not wash off.

That earth soaks in through the pores of The Body

and turns to acid in The Bones,

that Mark converts to poison in The Belly

and awaits its Day to be expelled;

the faces of The Poor imprint The Earth into which they are pressed

and brand the ground:  �This Earth is ours.� 

This Earth that cradles their bones and absorbs their blood

belongs to the children whose fathers they remember;

the children who receive their mothers� bones

belong to the earth that surges with the flames that make their blood. 


You Rich in Your Houses


You Rich think your velvet drapes,

the lush pile of your carpets insulate you,

your alcohol and your chandeliers, 

you think your doors and the balconies

off your hundreds of pristine rooms

are too imposing to succumb,

you think the cul-de-sacs

where your estates nestle are immune

because the bulldozers belong to you,

you think the drives named after you

where your children race with their nannies,

in the motorcycles and motorcades and the sedans

you buy for them so they can escape you,

you think your compounds will not burn because the tanks

and the and the fighter planes and the bombs

and the armies belong to you

and because the targeting of your soldiers is discriminate.

You think because you are secluded in your war rooms

under the shade of your ancient trees at the ends of your placid avenues

while The Poor are grabbing your soldiers, your slaves,

your prostitutes by the throats, that you will not be next;

but The Poor are strangling them.

Because War is the ultimate Passion

and Reason devoid of Passion is blind

and deaf and sits and waits for Passion to grind it to rubble,

as the sea grinds the oldest stones to sand.

Reason separated from Passion is a unit in matching uniforms,

marching in formation with weapons on their shoulders and in their hands,

following the plans the best minds of The Rich have devised 

while the Tattered Poor mill about muttering their rage

under their breaths one to another in their dusty, targeted streets

and drive their wired, rusted trucks and their bomb-laden donkeys

into your gleaming garages and towns.  The Reason of the Rich,

pale and shivering, clothed in its Logic of Profit,

cowers in its silken shirtsleeves in its mansions while Grief

plucks trees and the Poor�s trailers and favelas out by their roots

and gouges craters into the centers and outskirts of what were cities,

converts to piles of twisted beams the towers

for whose sake the homes and the shops

and the farms and wharves of The Poor were plowed.

Do not underestimate the force, You Rich,

do not think you can calculate or predict or direct

the vigor to which your obliteration gives rise.


Kneel Down, You Rich


Fail to respect The Power at your peril.   

Fail to understand what respect entails at the peril

of the cosmic way of which our species

has this long managed to remain a part.

Today The Poor are telling you

what respect means and you must listen�

You Rich will respect the power

of the Grief and Rage you evoke, they say,

you will repent.  You will kneel down before us

and beg us abjectly to forgive you,  

You Rich must grieve for Our Children your greed destroys

and your grief must be unquenchable except by justice.

Your ringed hands must grasp the rough,

you identify with the smallest of The Earth,

your ears must hear what The Poor�s lives are

and know and act on your knowledge

or Feeling will overwhelm

your shining territory that was called the sea,

that was called forests and mountains and marshes,

your golden property that was called Baghdad and Springfield,

that was called Darfur, Vic sur Cere, Fu-chien Sheng,

Grozny, Acropolis, New York, Half-Moon Bay,

The Poison and The Greed will consume

your asset that was called The Earth,

The Fire will lay waste so none�

not marmosets, lions or sparrows, cyprus or grass,

not pandas or bass, lobelia or banyan trees,

not eagles, goldenrod, mayflies, bats,

not vipers, The Poor or The Rich

or The Children of the Rich or of The Poor�

The Fire will leave only The Absence from which none can rise. 


[Mukto-mona] [Articles] [Recent Debate] [Special Event ] [Moderators] [Forum]