The American Machine

Poem previously published in “Rise: An Anthology of Power and Unity” by Vagabond Books


The American Machine

In the America I live in,
Much is made of the American gangster

This is why “Scarface” and “The Godfather”
Don’t leave weekly cable tv rotation

But it also spreads to the famous
American notion of success-
“The dream”

In which everyone must
Start from nothing to gain something

Even seen in the way Americans laud
The born-into-it big timer
As long as he served a summer stint at McDonalds
Or if he in any other way devoted himself
To a great American franchise

I am not generalizing but absolutely do mean
Because the American dream
Provides different avenues for a female
She comes up not from common labor and pluck
But out of motherhood
Sexual abuse
Or decades of marriage

What I mean is we like to see the men-

Who we can say understands
The value of the American dollar
(our values)
Because he has dabbled temporarily
In what could be described as
The issue here is that
I’ve had many friends and acquaintances
Who had plenty of pluck
Good luck
Worth ethic
And strike-it-rich intentions

And yet never made it above
Floor manager
Head server
Key holder
Opening supervisor

Or some other condescending stunt
That clearly was meant to say
You are better than average
But should be paid
Only slightly above average

I have known so many people
That worked hard and were willing
To work harder
Who worked a 70 hour work week
On a meager salary check that was designed
To abuse them

I have known many men and women
Who kept as keen to 70 hours a week schedules
As a well sharpened knife
Hoping it could cleave them to ease and a better income

While a life of ease remains a needle head
That almost no one threads

Some of the hardest working people I’ve known
Were single mothers and ex-convicts
Who worked on factory assembly lines
After eventually coming to understand
That much like in grade-school sports
Non-participation in the American economy
Is more despised than failure to succeed

(The American dream is a deliberate machine
That produces citizens who are prepared
To do whatever it takes to succeed in some way
The gangster no different from the lawmaker
From the paid lover
From the president
From the CEO
From the distributer
From the boy at 14 first learning to con with an innocent smile
To chase this dream is to admit one’s self
To a series of self-degradations
That may prove to be endless

But just may prove in the end
That you are worthy to degrade others)

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