Social Justice Poetry

income inequality poems

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)

Visit Anna at http://annakander.com.

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