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Monsters: Power Trip

For Charles Bivens

by Philip Shabazz


Against dirt, they worked
the mule to death. They built
suburbs on the 40 acres without trees.
They abandoned cites. Against hope,
blue collar jobs vanished,
and factories became shells. They drew
blood, undermining labor and trade unions.
Promises of earning money and promotion
went unanswered. They wanted you to
believe that you could be one of them.

They told you how to think.
They said you were a conquered people:
that no affirmative action, no reparations
would ever pay for slavery and jim crow.
Of course as promises died things fell apart.
They said the past was good for nothing,
except as docu-drama, music video,
mini-series television, or
a flick at the local cinema
with a coke and a bag of popcorn.

And they didn't admit it, but they made sure
that behind the schemes and scapegoats
were faces and hands that looked yours.
They used you.
They pitched their history books out the window.
They lied.
They turned misery into jokes about the past,
the present into the butt end those jokes.
They said no amount of blood money,
no insurance could ever cover the

massive damage already done to you, so
collecting it was out of the question.
Instead, they wanted their gods and prophets
to be worshipped each day, prayed to
before bedtime and sleep each night.
They thought money protected them.
They thought of themselves enough to keep
you and others out of power.
They made out with their own fools.
They were all alike. They were lucky.

They laughed. They cried.
They lived by war and died by it.
They slept with each other until death,
for fun or for the hell of it.
They ate dinner in high tone places,
and left the restrooms stained and wet.
They contaminated the air, mud, and rain;
those things were beneath them.
They ignored their own laws.
They kept secrets and hideaways.

They would come back from vacations
knowing the silverware and china
would be cleaned and in place.
They were not bothered by your questions.
They had the answers, except
they couldn't stop
the dust from settling in their eyes.
They couldn't make time stand still.
They couldn't stop the sun from setting.
They couldn't play without cheating.

They couldn't kill the Great Spirit.
They couldn't grow old without dying.
They couldn't take the circus and theater
they called their empire with them.
They couldn't live without their guns.
They believed peace was inconvenient.
They believed the purpose of life
was to survive and control you.
They were abandoned by love.
They asked for what they did.

  Mr. Shabazz gave permission to reprint this poem from his excellent and recently published collection, Freestyle & Visitations, Big Drum Press, 1997, available for $12.95 from-where else?-Internationalist Books.  

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