Only

It seems to me
that there’s been some confusion

in the news, in the media
in the comments sections,
and around the family dinner table

about where to aim
the blame
for our every disappointment,
every perceived — and rarely felt —
economic threat,
every culturally-dictated fantasy
that failed to come to fruition.

It’s the immigrants, they say.
The welfare collectors.
The addicts.
The poor.

But I say:
You’re all too cowardly
to pick a fight you might lose.

Sure, you’ll land your blows.
You’ll leave bruises.
Pull out hair
already thin from worry,
and malnutrition,
from living a life you refuse to value
simply because it is not yours.

You’ll pick their bloodied pennies off the floor,
put them in your pockets,
and misjudge the weight
of that blood and copper
as wealth.

But you were born
in a human pyramid —
somewhere around the middle
maybe —
and you’re stomping on the heads
of the people holding you up.
Blaming them
for the weight
of the person sitting on your shoulders.

But that person took risks, you’ll say.
Worked hard to climb to the top.
To deserve
to withhold
the necessities of life
from those who do less.

Those who only–

sleep in the streets
in weather that gnaws at their bones,
because that’s all the hunger has spared.

Only–

weigh their life on the tip of a needle
against a pain
the world tells them doesn’t exist.

Only–

risk their safety
trading the scraps of their self-worth
for a few guilt-ridden dollars.

Only–

work triple shifts
skipping meals and doctor’s appointments
so their families don’t have to.

Only–

leave their violence-ridden homes
for a place that will hate and envy them
for their will to survive.

Only–

carry their children on their backs
over the corpses
of the ones they couldn’t save.

Only.

Only imagine the strength —

in those backs
and those shoulders
and those hearts
and those bones.

The power in those hands.

If you would only pull them up
high enough to reach
the very peak of that pyramid.
High enough to shake from those pockets
the blood and copper
we’ve been letting weigh
us
down for so long.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

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