Adrienne Rich





Ballad of the Poverties

There’s the poverty of the cockroach kingdom and 
   the rusted toilet bowl
The poverty of to steal food for the first time
The poverty of to mouth a penis for a paycheck
The poverty of sweet charity ladling
Soup for the poor who must always be there for that
There’s poverty of theory poverty of swollen belly shamed 
Poverty of the diploma or ballot that goes nowhere
Princes of predation let me tell you
There are poverties and there are poverties

There’s the poverty of cheap luggage bursted open at 
   immigration
Poverty of the turned head, averted eye
The poverty of bored sex of tormented sex
The poverty of the bounced check poverty of the dumpster 
  dive
The poverty of the pawned horn of the smashed reading 
  glasses 
The poverty pushing the sheeted gurney the poverty 
  cleaning up the puke
The poverty of the pavement artist the poverty passed out on 
  pavement
Princes of finance you who have not lain there     
There are poverties and there are poverties

There is the poverty of hand-to-mouth and door-to-door 
And the poverty of stories patched-up to sell there

There’s the poverty of the child thumbing the Interstate
And the poverty of the bride enlisting for war
There is the poverty of stones fisted in pocket
And the poverty of the village bulldozed to rubble
There’s the poverty of coming home not as you left it
And the poverty of how would you ever end it 
Princes of weaponry who have not ever tasted war
There are poverties and there are poverties

There’s the poverty of wages wired for the funeral you
Can’t get to the poverty of bodies lying unburied
There’s the poverty of labor offered silently on the curb
The poverty of the no-contact prison visit
There’s the poverty of yard-sale scrapings spread 
And rejected the poverty of eviction, wedding bed out on street
Prince let me tell you who will never learn through words 
There are poverties and there are poverties

You who travel by private jet like a housefly
Buzzing with the other flies of plundered poverties
Princes and courtiers who will never learn through words
Here’s a mirror you can look into:  take it:  it’s yours.

 For James and Arlene Scully 

spoken = Heather C. Liston