On the side of the road, white cardboard in the shape of a man, illegible script. A signpost with scrawl: Will pay cash for diabetes strips. A system under the system with its black box. Disability hearing? a billboard reads. Trouble with Social Security? Where does the riot begin? Spark of dry grass, Russian thistle in flames, or butterflies bobbing as if pulled by unseen strings through the alleyway. My mother’s riot would have been peace. A bicycle wheel chained to a concrete planter. What metaphor can I use to describe the children sleeping in cages in detention centers? Birds pushed fenceward by a breeze? A train of brake lights extending? Mesquite pods mill under our feet on a rainless sidewalk. What revolution will my daughter feed? A break-the-state twig-quick snap or a long divining as if for water? A cotton silence? A death? Who will read this in the next economy, the one that comes after the one that kills us? What lessons will we take from the side of the road? A wooden crucifix, a white bicycle, a pinwheel, a poem waiting to be redacted: Which would you cross out?
Copyright © 2018 by Susan Briante. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.