An April Day, in Portland

A Crack in the Sidewalk

  1. Four Horsemen

Transfixed at my desk,
I stare at a window
into a world of wars and lies.
Three Orwellian empires
—or rather their soldiers, who after all are only following orders—
jockey to swallow the borderlands,
to slaughter whoever dares to resist the theft
of whatever they planted in the bit of dirt
they thought was theirs,
the theft of whatever wealth lies beneath it,
wealth the emperor’s overseers
can force them to unearth,
or when there’s nothing else to steal or kill,
set overseers to wring out their sweat,
wring them out like washrags.

Resist and our rulers
starve them with sanctions
—our cutting edge, sanctified form of siege warfare—
then slather the computer screens,
the TVs and papers and talk shows
with pieties and snapshots of the other empires’ victims
—but not our victims—
the famine the evil others caused, the children
thin and brittle as a chicken’s wishbone.

Meanwhile one more mutation of the latest pestilence
slays millions, another Holocaust,
and all the wealth we are forced to dig up
—the oil and coal, the gold and blood-stained diamonds—
brings methane, cyanide, and death.

  1. Three Virtues

Through the sleets of winter I clung
to chapped half-frozen shards of faith
in the coming of spring,
and now
—tearing away from the apocalyptic screen—
walk out into an April day, in a town
where whoever is too wrung out to pay rent
pitches tents,
or squats in RVs with flat tires and broken windows
among the green things,
the hyacinths, bluebells, dandelions, thistles,
on every unclaimed patch along the roadways and railroad tracks
where no one weeds.

Walk by what used to be family homes
that stood for a century before
the developers gobbled them down, demolished them,
razed the gardens with backhoes,
spewed up dime store apartments
ten to a lot, no room for green around them,
or gimcrack condos that buyers hope will last
past the day they pay off the mortgage.

The contractors pour fresh paving
but green things always find a way.
Tree roots crack the new sidewalk.
Underneath disaster something grows,
silent, inevitable, pushing upward,
throbbing with what we call life, or sometimes love,
sooner or later strong enough
to shatter the concrete façades
of the dying empires.


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