Social Justice Poetry

Labor History | A Social Justice Poem by Roy Pullam

It is more than a job
His son’s shoes
The roof over his family’s head
The food in their stomachs
The future
Now all uncertainty
Added to the cold
On the picket line
A sign
Proclaiming the unfairness
The slow walk
In front
Of the gate
The only warmth
The wood fire
In a fifty gallon barrel
The inequality of power
A Fortune Five Hundred corporation
Committed to break the union
Strikebreakers ready
To snatch a job
To work for less
Police their loyalty
To property over principle
But he will wait
Sacrificing with the hope
Of security
It is the story
Of labor
The patience
The long suffering
With the hope
His march
Around the walls
Of capital
Will bring the walls down

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White Lie | A Social Justice Poem by Anna Kander

wave it like a white flag, surrendering

with handshakes and smiles
so *civil*

project upon it red and blue patriotism

stars like ordnance exploding
stripes like prison bars

(truth, held captive)

parade it like a memory

celebrating men who slaughtered brothers
to enslave

(sense, held captive)

whisper, like wind whipping fabric:

the emperor’s new flag still has no colors

whisper, like rending garments:

the problem is not one man, elected
the problem is a tyrannous minority who sustains him
the problem is small men chasing votes

stuffing our futures
like paper scraps into ballot boxes

(humanity, held captive)

wave the white lie, blank as a black screen

like electronic voting machines swallowing code
returning unverifiable results

the next war will not be civil

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I Had a Nightmare Last Night | A Social Justice Poem by Gil Hoy

I had a nightmare last night,
A nightmare deeply rooted
in an American nightmare.

Where churches and schools,
theaters and city streets
were dying.

Where military weapons
were firing into unsuspecting
innocent crowds

pigeons intheblinkofaneye.

I awoke in a terrified sweat
as bleeding children wailed
and cried and screamed.

While those to protect us tasked
slept soundly in their beds.

A nightmare deeply rooted
in an American nightmare,

I had a nightmare last night.

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Blue | A Social Justice Poem by Anna Kander

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets!

Blue-chip companies take their name from the color of the highest-valued chips at poker tables on October 28, 1929.

(we’re reliable, all-American, safe)

Then comes October 29, 1929: the day the stock markets crash.

Then comes October 30, 2009: me, new to a minimum-wage custodial crew, learning that the most important thing, when you clean the headquarters of a multibillion-dollar corporation, is the executive washroom.

The questions are not: Are floors swept? Are counters and toilets clean?

The real questions are: Is the trash empty, even if there were only three paper towels in the bin?

(they don’t want to see trash)

Did you wipe away any fingerprints left when you opened the shiny chrome stall doors?

(they want you to be invisible)

And, is the water in the toilet bowl a reassuring, disinfectant-blue?

No? We’ve no time. They don’t pay us enough to stay any longer. Night janitors got to hustle to the next job.

Just spritz some blue in there, let’s go.

(they don’t want to see)

(they’ll never know)

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In Trump’s America | A Social Justice Poem by Dale Champlin

As children we sang, “Oh beautiful for spacious skies,” to America.
Imagining our superiority, we knew nothing but lies about America.

We were so innocent, we didn’t know we were great.
We were so young, we were proud to pledge allegiance to America.

We stood by our desks and put our hands over our first grade hearts.
Now that we are older we clench our fists at Trump’s America.

We can’t understand why blue-collar workers put their trust in him.
Our president scoffs at laws, doesn’t pay taxes, and gets rich off America.

While Trump postures behind a curtain of privilege—
the drug addicted and homeless pass out in the streets of America.

He back combs his pompadour, bullies his opponents and incites our enemies,
taunts, twitters and is ignorant about the history of America.

Each night we go to bed, thinking it can’t get any worse—
but every morning it has. I guess we were wrong about America.

I know missiles are pointed at our capitol, the rust belt and me.
In the land of the brave, how can I be brave if I don’t feel safe in America?

We build fences, break promises and turn our backs on climate change.
It’s no wonder the whole world has lost faith in America.

Try to breathe all this red and white smoke until you turn blue—
amid forest fires and hurricanes, children are hungry right here in America

While the rich get richer the poor can’t afford an education.
Our nation is divisible by money, race and gender here in America.

When sincerity is a thing of the past how do we know what is true?
But half of us still buy the lies about our great again America.

How can children at church or school be used for target practice?
How did we get here we wonder? Fearing the worst, we weep for America.

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Mac | A Social Justice Poem by Roy Pullam

His orange Studebaker
Pulled up
To our house
Mac, my father’s friend
Struggled to get out
Gripping the steering wheel
Pulling his thin body
To the running board
His body twisted right
Broken beyond repair
In a mining accident
His left side
Ratcheted forward
His steps labored
He took the hose
From the coil
On the ground
Placing it
In the fifty-gallon barrel
One of six
In the bed
Of the truck
His well
Without a bottom
Blown out
By the explosions
In the nearby strip mines
I stood by Mac
Holding the grass sack
Full of Purex
Bleach bottles
Jugs I had gathered
At the dump
Jugs he would pay
A nickel for
Jugs he would fill
With the moonshine
He made on the hill
Behind his house
Mac always came
With gumdrops
With chocolate drops
With licorice
He bartered for the water
Mother was not happy
But Dad knew
Without the liquor sales
Mac would starve
They caught Mac
Destroyed his still
Locked him up
Five years
The judge lecturing Mac
For his sin
Of selling whiskey
In a dry county
And at the end
Of his work day
The judge
Had a highball
With friends
At the VFW
Rules are for poor people
Like Mac
The rich
Find their exceptions
The space
Between the laws

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