Social Justice Poetry

J.K. Durick

Fake News | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

The poor, of course, are
moving up, as promised,
while the middle class

feels comfortably in place,
and corporations open up
make way for the many;

the great unwashed of us
wash up to process, to march
on Washington to give thanks;

we are the banner headlines,
the backstory, the latest tweet,
a rumor, an odd bit of gossip,

we’re what’s left after storms
let up, after the forest fires,
house fires go out for good;

we are a budget deficit, a tax
cut, an underfunded program,
a wall worth building after all.

Politics as Usual | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

Politics, too often, exists, survives in the valley of
its making, full of sound and fury signifying nothing
or little, which is fine if all the world needed was to
keep dangerous people busy with their own business,
they pose and party, form groups and apply pressure,
make speeches for the cameras in their mostly empty
chambers, vote and gloat, form committees, adjust
their thinking to keep their power, their place assured,

but, there’s always a but, when it comes to who runs
the show, there are problems all around us, ones that
get mentioned, but play out quietly in the background
in all the clamor and cluster of politics, think of all
the diseases that need to be cured, or poverty, or cities
falling apart on the evening news, the environment
and unemployment – when politics become about itself,
politicians on talk shows, politicians on junkets, on and
on, the art of the possible becomes impossible to take.

Health Care | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

After thirty years on the job, my doctor is retiring.
He’s been my doctor for more than twenty-five of
those – what’s that, twenty-five annual check ups
and how many follow-ups, blood pressure and all,
a cold or two, a sore elbow, he’s talked me through
it all, had a way of asking questions, poking and
prodding, literally and figuratively, suggesting this
and prescribing that; I always walked away better
than when I arrived, my asthma and allergies under
control, even my familial tremors steadied enough
to get by without looking possessed, and the rest.
It was so simple, always insured, a large medical
center nearby, the full array of specialists ready in
the wings, I’d call, an appointment awaited, earlier
or later whichever fit; it was that easy, now I am
out shopping, something I hate to do, and now I’m
told that no one dies from lack of health care, words
to live by, to drag around with my pre-existing self
that human condition I have lived with so long, luck
of the draw, it seems, right now reminds me of that.

Hunger | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

It isn’t an unpleasant feeling for those of us
who are overweight and pamper ourselves,
tuck into two or three full meals each day,
fridges full and pantries aplenty, we get by,
know the feeling from our days on a diet
when a little groan of hunger marks progress
or we know it when it comes on us just before
dinner or a snack, delayed longer than expected.

So, it’s no wonder when we don’t “get” the news
when they show us the hungry all around us,
families wandering into resettlement camps,
stick figures stumbling along, or the child with
a distended stomach lying in his mother’s lap
and the lost looks in their eyes as the watch
the camera watching them starve; their hunger
holds them, while most of us shift uncomfortably
in our chairs and wonder what’s for supper.

Mental Health | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

We settled it years ago, closed asylums, so many,
those Dickensian places, exposed, closed, patients,
inmates released into the world, often just left off
with few plans and fewer places to go; streets are
never enough; homeless they haunt us, we jail them,
fill emergency rooms with them, with no beds for
them; instead of doctors we give them the police,
instead of treatment, we jail them, instead of solutions
we get statistics, how many of the homeless, how
many crimes, how many dollars we spend to no end,
and we’re getting to know that solutions are never
as easy as they seem to be.

Closing the Door | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

A door when it closes makes a noise –
slammed, of course, it’s loud enough
to rattle windows, if shut more slowly
more subtly it’s an almost silent click.

If it’s a literal door and you see it close
from the outside, you would be tempted
to knock or ring the bell, but the more
figurative kind are harder to deal with.

When these doors close, through opinion,
through executive order, or a vote along
party lines, the closing is harder on those
on the outside, you would be tempted too,

tempted to talk, but out here you are alone
even in a crowd you are alone, closed doors
do that, they fill up space in your thinking,
a blank wall, a blank face, an answering silence.

Protest, Again | A Social Justice Poem by J.K. Durick

They gather so often – they must,
injustice, we find, plays many roles,
arrives in so many forms,

and they gather – faithfully
on City Hall steps, in front of
the senators’ offices –

marching, picketing,
the form remains the same,
the content changes

there’s a war, forever a war,
there are laws forced through,
enforced unfairly;

the protesters assemble
some older, veterans ready for more,
younger ones, just learning how

to show up, march, and speak up,
say injustice, say justice and try
to tell us the difference.