Questions for an Expanding American Sadness

Have you atoned
are you deep in thought
right now
over all of this

are there too many homeless bodies
in your local car park
are you sleeping well at night
do you ever wonder
what is on the other side
of the fence
about your neighbors family
where his people come from
are you a good person
do you know what this requires,
to be good?

Do you know how to carry light
in both hands while the water
speaks to you
when no one is looking
it’s harder to tell
the good from the bad
from the it’s-getting-late-now
too late to pray
to pick at scabs barely healed
to call forgiveness a stranger who tests your limits
to carry the heavy man up a hill
and put him back on his porch at night
when he’s drunk off his ass
and his kids are crying upstairs
and something inside of you is dying
but you’re fighting to keep your life lit

does the evening news make it worse
the war footage
the rampage shootings
the hate, the holiness
the heat down off of the rafters
pressing in
how the floor boards warp and bend
like an American heart
do you have one
is it beating right now
can you do the good work
will any of us last if you don’t?

James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (2018, Indolent Books) and editor of the forthcoming anthology What Keeps us Here: Songs from The Other Side of Trauma. In 2016 he founded the online literary arts and music journal Anti-Heroin Chic to provide a platform for often unheard voices, including those struggling with addiction, mental illness and Prison/confinement. He resides in upstate New York, in between balanced rocks and horse farms. He has never believed in anything as strongly as he does the power of poetry to help heal a shattered life. Read other articles by James.