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(DV) Ransel: Poor in America -- P.I.A.







Poor in America -- P.I.A.
by Vi Ransel
January 5, 2006

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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.

Vi Ransel lives in New York, and can be reached at: rosiesretrocycle@yahoo.com.

Other Poems by Vi Ransel

* The Treadmill
* The Driver