Social Justice Poetry

Supper on Guinda St. 1957 | A Social Justice Poem by Ruth Mota

Around our gray formica table
mother managed the roast beef and mashed potatoes
but father presided
thudding his limping frame into the only chair with arms
booming out his gratitude for another fine day
and for his wife’s fine home-cooking:
“I’ve dined in Rome, in Paris, but never had beef as fine yours, Thelma”
Eventually his piercing gray eyes turn to me:
“Ruthie, how’s your right arm?”
meaning I was to fetch his second cup of coffee.
“What did you learn in school today?”
meaning I would be fetching the dictionary, the encyclopedia, the atlas.
I said that today we talked about Communism.
Thelma’s temples throb at the mention of the word.
She’s mad about Miss Welch calling Miss White a Communist.
She’s mad at Nixon calling Helen Gahagan Douglas
pink down to her underwear.
She’s mostly mad at McCarthy calling everybody red,
what he did to Annie Lee Moss,
a name that sixty years later lights up my brain in neon with injustice.
But she’s spittin’ mad at the stupid American electorate
who voted these scoundrels into office.
“I’m not sure I believe in democracy.
There’s a lot to be said for a good king.”
Father croons and soothes: “Now dear, we’ve lived through Harding.
We’ve lived through Coolidge. We can live through this.”
But father died in 1988. He never had to live through this,
never had to concede that this time his wife had won the argument,
big time.


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