Year of the Rat
Our sons had the spines of sad old men,
Hook-necked and hooked on laptop screens
In the simulation of a school
In a simulation of their teens.
Our daughters danced to please an app,
Their youth, a data point for sale,
Mere truth, a dandelion clock
That shred itself into the gale.
Money made love to money, as ever,
And money made more money still.
Why wouldn’t governors dine out
With you and me to foot the bill?
Hush, or they’ll fire us for laughing,
And we’ll be left without our checks,
Dreaming, enraged, of reckonings,
Returned again to rags and wrecks.
Our parents perished in beeping rooms,
Their funerals pixellated: freezing:
Freezing again: a heartbeat, skipped:
Even their cessation ceasing.
How do we kiss when breath is deadly?
How do we speak when speech is a duel?
How do we die but by the thousands,
Sloganeering our renewal?
I, too, have been a zealot in
My day, I, too, have been a cynic,
But I saw only human beings
Shrouded in rows behind the clinic.
What brand of breathlessness for you?
Gamble on age, rely on luck,
But fire up the excavator,
Send the refrigerated truck.
The bankers waltzed the wraith of wealth,
Coffers and coffins to either side
While the Dollar Store was burning down:
Great Pandemic, Great Divide.
This is my country, these, my people,
One neverending shout, unmasked.
A love that loves the half that’s like me
Isn’t the love this year has asked
Because our task is love perforce,
Through gritted teeth, through fear and noise
To work the words that will unwarp
The world and give that love its voice.
Listen to Amit Majmudar recite his poem in an interview with America on the podcast “Church Meets World.” Find it at americamagazine.org/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.