13 Questions for the Next Economy

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?

More by Susan Briante

October 14—The Dow Closes Up 10015

I bleed a little, peyote tea waits in the refrigerator,
a Ferris Wheel rolls and rolls over the highway
after the miscarriage, we search 
for rings with missing stones, unmatched earrings
sell our gold, ride the Ferris Wheel bigger than Paris,
my parents pray for us, I play Dylan's "Spanish Boots"
over and over, the sunroof fills with stars 
like watching a film of strangers I recognize
but don't really know
Schuyler says you can't get at sunset naming colors
between the liars trees and shopping carts
we buy a house, cry in bed, leave 
the child unnamed
pink lemon pearly blue white

Off Lows, Weakness Remains: Meditation #3

In the PartyStore/PierOne/Target/Kohls parking lot
find a desert willow among the shopping carts,

walk around it sunwise repeating:

        I am the avant-garde, I am the avant-garde, I am the avant-garde

repeating:

        DIY, DIY, DIY

Imagine a chart of median family incomes as big as the parking lot—
use it to determine where to abandon your car.

        I default, I default, I default

Your mind is a blood blister rising on your thumb, a ladybug.
Among these shopping carts, you fortress. Among plastic bags you affirm:

Lo! the light from desert trees does not speak in numbers, costs us nothing.
Here, as in a butterfly garden, everyone crawls before flight.

Related Poems

Customer Loyalty Program

The opposite of not existing
is shopping. I am less the name
given me than my portion
of our nation’s GDP. Student loan
interest rates and 401(k) projections
tangle on a graph, spurring one another
toward climax. I am my credit score
(777, which means I can afford
to gamble) by way of most common
denominator: the easiest consistent definition
for those who pass me on the street,
who sneeze into my collar, who walk
their dogs like their own sovereign nations.
The main export of dogs is love, because
that’s all we’ll take from them. I withhold.
I charitable contribution. I put into
a MEEK fund so I inherit whatever’s left me
when the wars are done. Take
the whips and minimum gags allowed
by law and say thank you, chew
on the inside of my cheek. I am alive
when restrained, know my body
by what it pushes up against.
I am putting in my dues, stretching
my life out till next week’s paycheck,
and the next; withhold a little bit
every other Thursday until
refund time, that time of year
all the S&M shops dream of, for we buy
new, plastic-smelling gags, we buy leather,
our own handcuffs. Will the nation
spoon us after? Do we need
SSN safewords? Are we expected to speak
with all this debt in our mouths, and what
would we say if it’s removed?