A Monologue

A Monologue
On the Resolution of Light Points as Measured in Arc Minutes

I

will work for food the sign said and I thought it was a shame
but my friend set me straight, said it’s a scam
it is? I asked, and she said sure
she’d heard it from a friend who had it from a friend
who had it from a guy who saw it on the news
how there was this guy who used that sign
and people gave him money, them being
so warm hearted and all, just gave him money
god damn
so he was out there getting rich by acting poor
and I was flabbergasted looking at this pale, thin woman
held down by her cardboard cry
and I realized that it was true
god damn
that if I offered her a job she wouldn’t take it
she’d just make some excuse
and sensing somehow
with that animal cunning they all have
that the street corner had got a little too hot
she’d walk four blocks to her Mercedes
and have her man drive her home to Highland Park
she’d replace those rags with her finest togs
made from silken threads
the expectorate of happy silk worms
whose cloaca are lightly blown upon
by virgin sericulturists descended from the Han dynasty
and she’d wear these rare orgasmic silks to dinner
at the Mansion on Turtle Creek
and tell all her buddies who meet there every night
after pretending to be homeless
about this fool
who offered her three dollars an hour
to rake leaves
and they’d all laugh, their throats thick with phlegm and caviar
they’d offer a toast to this wonderful country
and the dom perignon would flow
like the blood of our redeemer
they would not care, those bastards
afterwards her driver would rush her to her lair
to change back into a tatterdemalion
in time to make the presbyterian night shelter
for an evening of baccarat and chemin de fer
and here I almost fell for it

II

My brother said they closed the mill
what was he gonna do
more money in paper money than paper products
so who needs
a paper mill
and people get so fussy anymore
about the cancer and the air and all
so fussy you can’t hardly make a buck
from the cracked lungs of an american
you got to shop it out
and so they shut ‘er down
so what was he gonna do

I can’t give him a job
I told the dumb bastard
years ago I told him
he should go to school
but he said no, he was not good at school
and he liked a mill just fine
where he could work hard and make a thing
an actual thing that actual people used
people he knew back when
and he could work his shifts
and have the time to see his wife and kids
and worship as he pleased every week
among people he had known all his life
back when he knew people

now he can spend even more time with his family
they can all live together in the car
as they drive from town to town to look for work
assuming there are any mills left at all
assuming they aren’t all shut down to save
more resource for investment in india
or mexico or brazil or china or indonesia
or whatever parachute-exporting cultures
care to drive their people mad
so you can make a buck
why should you care
you don’t know those people, never did
even when you knew some people

make a buck
can you make a buck
I can make a whistle from a reed
a table from a tree
a bowl from Georgia clay
but I cannot make a buck
and anyway I was lying
about the whistle and the table and the reed
people can’t make those kinds of things anymore
people can’t make anything anymore except other people
but there are guys
who can make a buck from that

Maybe he can catch in retail
‘cause what they need are stable workers
but even there they’ll ask for his address
and he’ll have to tell them
I can get a place if I can get a job
and that will be enough to kiss his chance goodbye
those shops can’t take the risk
they’ll know that he is on the edge
and if even one tiny thing goes wrong for him
he won’t be there to stock the latest
teen pornography

‘cause what we need are stable workers
it’s his fault he can’t build stability
for a family of four on eighteen thousand a year
hell, my daddy never made that much and he bought a house
he always had something in the bank for the bad times
what’s your problem, are you retarded
have you looked at the want ads
criminey, there’s pages of them
begging for stable workers
it was good enough for Hercules
what makes you so special
have you tried telemarketing

III

our enlightened age, my god
what a fabulous time to be alive
it’s everywhere the opportunity
to make a deal and float a loan
and buy today and sell tomorrow and look at what I made
a buck
it thrills my soul

all those griping whiners piss me off
they’re just not bright
why don’t they take the money
their daddies leave them
and do something smart like I did
no, they’d rather gripe and whine
but we’re building this country, we’re making jobs
guys don’t lock doors for free, you know
you got to pay people to empty those warehouses
to cut those lines into scrap
to manufacture all that pink paper
(where can I get me some pink paper manufactured)
thank god for me, that’s all I have to say
without my smarts and know-how
those girls in the office would never have had the chance
for this benefit-less temporary gig
and that guy who cleans the place at night
would be on the street
I did that
I saved them
worship me

IV

my brother takes a reliable american firearm
well, bought in america anyway
or stolen here, maybe
some kind of gun from
some damned place
a fit firearm for throwing a fit
is what he’s got
and stands in the mall, our modern main street
where all government is owned
where all cops are private
where there are no churches and no schools
the metaphor that keeps on giving, this mall
he stands there, my brother
surrounded by everything he can never provide his kids
he waves his rifle saying listen to me
you bastards, look where your money goes
he fires a shot and the shop windows shatter
like rock candy, raining down in sweet crystals
to sparkle in his hair and beard
and the light dances through the glass
bathing him in an aura of broken desperation
he says it is you mister constant shopper
who never speaks up, who never answers back
who lets them sacrifice our treasures
on unwinnable wars and irresponsible bankers
and evil corporations declared human by pandering judges
and bought politicians, all of them
slick from buggering the public so thoroughly
that none of us might ever stand again
they leave nothing to protect posterity from their assault—
His tears flow as he shouts these things
he stops to look around and his heart shatters
like the glass from the windows and he screams
will you at least look up from your phones
god damn

a shot flashes through the throat of a passer by
tears the chest of a guilt-ridden innocent
bursts the eye of a militant non-participant
shooting all the wrong people
shooting people who don’t know people
he is one in a series of acts
by a horrible idiot god
at last, my brother admits that he
he
he
he is the problem after all
that they were right about him all along
and when they kill him dead
his blood smeared like chocolate on the mouth of Sears
then, by god, they’ll all sit up
all the pundits will argue for days
they’ll look into his pitiful past
way back to when he knew some people
until they find someone who will say
he was always kind of a loner
which will lead finally to a substantive discussion
about how a guy like that
could get a gun

—Don Whittington

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