Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sacramento Capitol Mall



Politicos stride like totalitarian colonels.
Professionals lean into conversations
about cash-flow, internal control, and impact (a verb).

Winos stand against a wall and shiver
their way out of hallucination,
their shirt-fronts soaked with the Lamb's
most inexpensive blood; bums pick through rubbish
and sleep under news; the mad testify
to streetlights and themselves.

No one runs for office anymore
except the staffs of those who ran before.
They govern each other and whisper about us.

Sunlight remains democratic.
We walk in it together
between the muddy river and the capitol.
We are lobbyist and lunatic, accountant and pickpocket,
admin-assistant, tech-person, plumber,
and Ph.D. student writing about
power-relationships.

I find myself wondering not at all
about the powerful. I focus on a trembling hand
that picks through garbage. I fork over
a few bucks to the hand's person.
who gargles the words, "God bless you."
 Somewhere there’s a photo

of that man when he was six years old
and squinting at the camera, happy in a summer
in another state.

Maybe you finally come to hate poverty
enough to pursue it as an art;
maybe a thousand left hooks in the downtown gym
finally leave your brain fizzed like pink champagne,
and you're on the street mumbling to a corner man
who isn't there. Or somebody dies, and your way

of understanding that is to let go the things
that hint of looking forward,
including the grammar of love,
and love of self, and taking tomorrow straight.

Yeah, so, I gave him a few bucks, which will
go for booze, not a sandwich, and I don’t care
because it’s not my money anymore,
and as the Capitol might whisper,
it never was. 


Copyright 2013 hans ostrom
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