It's an ancient tradition derived
from the scapegoat of Leviticus
whereby the wrongs of others
are transferred to an innocent
who's then sent out alone to die
symbolically bearing others' sins,
absolving from greed, lust, pride and hate
the community that condemned him.
A corpse is laid out, sin eater employed
to eat bread and salt from its belly
thereby absorbing the corpse's sins
for the wages of just a few pennies.
Relegated to the wrong side of the tracks
in housing fallen to disrepair
destitute even of hope
a place one stumbles only in error!
The poor clean the toilets, wait the tables,
kill the meat and mow the lawns,
raise the children of the "upper" classes,
walk their pampered dogs and park their cars.
They assemble the latest electronics,
sew our blue jeans and our wedding gowns.
When we buy cheap Chinese goods at Wal-mart
they're the "associates" who check us out.
The poor care for other people's parents
left alone and sad in our nursing homes.
They're the receptionists in upscale spas,
the charming girls in nail salons.
They're dishwashers who scrape half-full plates
left by those who can afford to go out to eat.
They stock store shelves and work in warehouses
where corporations ship and receive.
They empty bed pans and wipe up vomit.
They're janitors and maintenance men.
And a lot of them help to build the jails
they're disproportionately incarcerated in.
The people they serve hardly speak to them
though they provide indispensable services
because they're the living proof of a "lower" class,
which makes most Americans nervous.
The fact that they exist at all is a slap
in the face of the American polity,
so they're treated like a shameful excrescence
on the ass of American society.
But like the ghetto homelands of South Africa,
America has embarrassing pockets of poverty.
And the economic apartheid we practice
makes the poor exiles in their own country.
And when the poor are all used up, having been
consumed by predatory corporations,
they're discarded like so much garbage
for being too old, too sick or disabled.
These castoffs through no fault of their own
are condemned by the corporate supremacists
who looted their pensions and 401Ks
to eke out a long and miserable existence.
It's gone on so long it seems normal,
and corporate-owned media report it that way.
It's as if poverty were invisible
and America's conscience had been mislaid
So the sin eaters continue to scramble
for scraps from the CORPSE-porations' table,
bearing the burden of unpardonable sin,
our homegrown, American scapegoats.
And treating the poor as if this is their fault
hides the fact it is America's decision,
to absolve the criminal perpetrator
and blame the sin-eating victim.
So you'll never see a T-shirt that says
"Poor and Proud in the U.S.A."
because in the United States of America
the P.I.A. are M.I.A.
Other Poems by Vi Ransel