Wednesday, December 7, 2016


When you live in a city of lies,
where words are sniper bullets scoping truth,
you must avoid street lights
when you walk yourselves home from evening meetings.
Do not wait at stoplights for a sign or cross,
just walk when you know its time to walk.

When the woman behind the counter
At the 7-11 looks behind you as she takes your
Cash, don’t turn around but ask to buy a pack
Of cigarettes, even if you don’t smoke,
Then walk slowly out the door smacking
That pack against the palm of your other hand.

When the police car that circled the
Block, circles it again, turn on all the lights,
Inside and out. Let them know you are
knowing. Turn down the TV
So the neighbors don’t think what they may hear
Is just entertainment.

When you see a security camera,
don’t wave or be cute. You
must keep your dear loved ones so close
that no one can see their shadows.

When the people gathered
On the corner are strangers,
Stay on your porch, in the dark, let them see
Just the glow of your cigarettes. Don’t talk
About anything except, maybe, guns. Always
Back into your driveway.

When the river is red with oil and waste,
The politicians will brag of their success in
Saving it from worse. Always carry a handkerchief
To cover your mouth and nose from the stench. Always
Have enough cash for a cab.
When the teacher tells you what you know
Are big lies that carry the weight of their absurdity
Like scepters, and you are forced to keep your head down
by sniper fire, remember to breathe and
know where the exits are.

When the manager takes his daily walk
Through your department,
You need to notice everything about that walk,
The direction and the timing of it. The slow
and the fast of it.
Someday it might mean life and death.

When light gathers suddenly
on a midnight horizon like a sunrise,
gather your family and say the prayers
That must be said. Touch each other’s
Faces and wipe away the tears.

And when the light grows too bright to bear,
When even closing your eyes can’t stop the pain of it,
When one more lie is added to the fire,
And snipers are everywhere,
Then we must find each other and
All the others.

Then we will run through the town square
Of the city of lies, its blinding lights,
As cop cars circle the square
Again and again, as the mayor
Descends to his command center,
As the stench overcomes us like sin.
As we hold close all that was
Shattered in the past, all of
The sacrifices, all of the blood
Of hallowed providence, all 
of the words of all our prophets and poets, 
hold it all so close 
that no one can see their shadows.

Oh! loved ones, hold dearly


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