ON FRANKLIN STREET
By Charles Patrick Norman
The four of us on Franklin Street one Saturday we walked,
My younger brothers ran ahead to peer in store windows
While I stretched my small steps beside my father’s strides
In blind imitation of his proud strut I stalked.
We came upon a withered man in dirty clothes upon the ground,
Against a vacant building door he leaned with dried flowers in hand,
Twisted red crepe paper, green wire stems, not worth much, to me,
Yet my father reached deeply in his pocket, giving all the quarters he found.
He handed me the flower, a poppy, symbol of a long-ago great war,
I did not understand why he paid a price so dear and asked him.
He said we can never repay that man for what he sacrificed,
“I’d have given him dollars, not silver, were we not so poor.”
In times to come I found my father never passed a beggar by
Without sharing what little he had for a pencil, smile, or God bless you.
He tossed his precious packs of Camels to road prisoners from his car
In high spinning arcs that one grinning soul snatched deftly from the sky.
He’s gone now, my father, these many years, yet his heart beats on in me,
I try to do what he would do for those less fortunate than I,
Even when it is the last I have with none to come, or more,
I think of us four on Franklin Street that day, when I was young and free.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Saturday, October 6, 2012
WE ARE THE SQUANDERI
By Charles Patrick Norman
We are The Squanderi, the squandered ones,
You know us, but you turn your head
At the disturbing sight that otherwise offend
Your refined senses of justice, opportunity, and
The American Dream.
Our mothers were Squanderi before us,
Pre-teen pregnant, high on drugs offered freely
Through corporate neighborhood distribution networks
That start with billionaires with ships, airplanes and warehouses,
Down to teen dealers wearing Air Jordans passing out free samples
To addict each new generation of Squanderi to their losing ways
Of stealing from their Squanderi mothers and grandmothers
Who tend them,
To selling drugs themselves to feed their habits,
To trading their Squanderi bodies
For a few hours of narcotized oblivion.
We are the Squanderi babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome,
Premature babies the size of rabbits or squirrels
Removed from Squanderi wombs,
Already twitching from withdrawals
Our primitive pleasure centers calling out
For crack cocaine before we’ve tasted
Tainted mother’s milk,
Or seeking heroin, or pills of corporate choice,
Oxycodone and her sisters.
We are The Squanderi children
Who wander, lost,
Off the bus to elementary schools miles away,
Hungry, no breakfast, no eggs, milk or juice
Like your pink-cheeked cherubs with warm clothing,
New shoes, backpacks stuffed with school supplies and cell phones.
What’s a cell phone?
It’s what the dealers hold up to their ears
Or tap with their fingers and smile.
We are The Squanderi children who sit at the back of the classroom,
Starving, vacant-eyed, staring at the backs of the heads
Of your well-tended children who raise their hands
With the answers to unintelligible questions
Of that teacher who drones on and on
And never looks our way.
It is too disturbing.
It won’t do them any good, anyway,
They are Squanderi.
We are The Squanderi.
We descend upon “the convenience store” in our flocks
Like robins on a strawberry field,
Hoping to snatch a Twix or Skittles or beef jerky
Or a bag of Lays Potato Chips
Before we are shooed and hustled out the door
By the dark-skinned man who curses us
In some unknown tongue learned
In even worse slums of Mumbai, or Bombay,
Or whatever they’re calling it now,
A man now driving a shiny foreign car
Manufactured in Tennessee or Alabama
By Japanese or Germans or other folks
Who were shooting at Grandpa
Scant decades ago, and are now our friends
In prosperity that never seems to trickle down
To the bottom of the barrel where we squirm
And fend for ourselves,
Too many hands with manicured nails above us
Scooping out the meat before the broth reaches us.
When we Squanderi are hungry we will do things
That do not occur to you or us when our bellies are full,
Like the day the food stamps come on the card
And Grandma fries a chicken and potatoes
And we drink milk for two or three days
Until the gallon jug is empty.
What are food stamps, you ask?
We are The Squanderi children,
By those who squander our bodies
And discard us along with our sick babies,
Like those before us, waiting in lines,
Visiting our wasted mothers with brown teeth
Rotted from crystal meth along with their minds.
What did you bring me?
In jails and distant prisons, but not our fathers,
Who we wouldn’t recognize anyway
Unless Maury Povich gives DNA tests
To the neighborhood dope men on TV,
A lengthy process of elimination,
“You are NOT the Father!”
We are The Squanderi who used to fill up the mental hospitals
Until the rich politicians closed them down
So they could free up more tax dollars to steal,
Let them eat cake, or stand in line at the Salvation Army
Or some do-gooder soup kitchen like everyone else.
So now we live in homeless shelters, or cardboard boxes
In alleys, under eight-lane bridges, or city parks,
The Good Citizens who hold their breaths
And turn up their noses,
Offended by the stench of The Squanderi.
Don’t give them anything—
It only encourages them.
Why don’t those people get jobs
And better themselves, instead of taking
Government handouts from taxpaying citizens?
Jobs doing what?
Picking tomatoes at some corporate agricultural conglomerate
Twenty miles from the projects where not even
Illegal immigrant farmworkers dare to tread,
In fear of the white men in jackets with “ICE”
On the backs?
And then what?
Find our way back to town and trade
Twenty dollars to the teen with the cell phone
To his ear
For a few yellow crack rocks?
We are The Squanderi, who fill the juvenile “homes,”
The courts, the jails, the prisons
With “mandatory lifes,”
And some of us, the lucky ones,
Get strapped into polished wood chairs
With electrical connections pioneered by
Thomas Alva Edison and George Westinghouse
(Ask Mr. Google — he knows everything),
Better known for consumer products
That make your lives easier, insulated
So that your pink-cheeked cherubs
Won’t be “accidentally” electrocuted
By the dishwasher or plasma screen TV.
The jolts of electricity fry our brains
One last good time,
Smoke comes out our ears until
Our unwanted Squanderi bodies
Are carted away
For further cremation
With those Squanderi before us,
Ashes to ashes.
Or “The Authorities” will pump our veins full
With corporate drugs designed for “euthanasia”
Of dogs and cats and other surplus animals
Like us, The Squanderi,
They “put us to sleep” like Fido and Muffy,
One last shot of chemical dependency,
A final buzz at the buzzer,
We’ll never be this high or low again.
Thanks, I needed that. Better to die now
Than spend an eternity in your cages
Built by other Squanderi, supervised by
Fat white men with clipboards, hard hats and shiny trucks.
We are The Squanderi. Pay no attention to us.
We are not of your class or your world.
We are just “The Wasted Ones,”
On the way to the dump
With the other trash.
Pray to your God that you never join us.
Posted by Charles P. Norman at 3:08 PM