Heroes, They Say
After Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Only Democracy in the Middle East”
You are all essential workers.
Please report for duty.
We need to be served.
The economy demands it.
Always, always capital.
For us, not you.
Heroes do not ask for remuneration.
You deserve accolades,
but not a livable wage.
You were born into the wrong family
and at the wrong time,
and in the wrong place. All of you.
We would rather not say this,
but we are suffering
and we need you
to risk your lives
for our petty conveniences.
Please be happy that you’re still employed.
Insurrection at the Capitol
Imagine the glow of hatred upon this fiery sea
nurtured by the narcissistic indignation of a tyrant,
set ablaze like Ohio’s crooked river once slick with taint
untold. Imagine this anger, our national blemish,
revolutionized as love! What bright phoenix might rise,
restore our allegiance to one another forged from euphoric
empathy? Can we heal this centuries-deep partisan trauma,
commence, finally, the pursuit of concerted happiness asleep
too long among purple mountains and fruited plains, semi-
intoxicated by the zealous rhetoric of Freedom? Let us trust
one another, for the first time, and together live our manifesto
now that we have witnessed the consequence of rage infernal.
Where We Weep
Then there was the time
we were building the fence
that would keep us out
of the Westlake Country Club,
where bronzed bodies laid
around the unbroken pool water
on towels the color of freshly
fallen snow, and the sun shown
luminous against sweating carafes
of tropical liquors mixed to match
impeccably lacquered toes.
And we three, pulling at the handles
of post-hole diggers, hauling lumps
of clay from the dense earth
only to fill each small void
with concrete that dried too quickly
in the august scorch. At lunchtime,
I listened to the songs of summer
spilling carelessly from nearby
loudspeakers while I sat atop the
rising stench of defaulted mortgages
and failed marriages shat into the
Port-o-John hidden from view
behind the grease dumpsters.
Posing in Earnest
For Ellen Crowell
Oscar was no Pecksniffian punk.
He dressed his wild writing in
aristocratic drag, the grand dandy
of Decadence: implicit subtext
of DADA and the New York Dolls.
Matthew Schultz teaches creative writing at Vassar College. He is the author of two novels: On Coventry and We, The Wanted. His work has recently appeared in VERSIFICATION, Juke Joint, and Sledgehammer