A relentless South Texas wind poses impossible questions,
Flaps the smirking flags until they are upturned,
Mists the mown grass with evil’s sputum,
Ripples the lone unarmed security guard’s shirt
As he waves concentration camp employees
In and out of the unremarkable office park parking lot.
Outside the Casa El Presidente tender-age detention facility
Where children as young as one-month live in cages,
I wonder: How durable is the machinery of the state?
How many of us would it take
To brush past the guard in blue short sleeves
And blue shorts set against a darkening blue sky,
Bald, or head shaved—I can’t tell which with the sun
Dipping lower and lower into the night’s waiting grave—
And set free the children?
One? Ten? One hundred?
Does America’s strength reside in this man’s
Minimum-wage-routine, his indifferent pacing?
Do they that hired him have children, believe in love?
How does he feel standing there as darkness falls
And he becomes an inhuman shape silhouetted
Against an inhuman panorama of wind-tossed stars
And a low-slung office building where little children
Sleep the sleep of those who have lost everything?
I came here to bear witness.
I came to take a sabbatical from business-as-usual.
What I’ve found is the unimaginable turned banal,
Like a nuclear detonation mentioned in passing
Before CNN cuts for a commercial break.
The sun disappears. No one bothers to reach for a flashlight:
Nothing to see; the office curtains are drawn.
The night-shift staff arrives to relieve the day-shift
Like nameless mechanics just doing their job,
For in America we all have jobs, we do them well
And without complaint,
And we quiet our minds with the faith
That hard work can set us free.
by Andy Posner
Andy Posner is a resident of Dedham, Massachusetts. He grew up in Los Angeles and received his Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Culture from California State University, Northridge. He moved to New England in 2007 to pursue an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown University. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides small personal loans and financial coaching to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, cycling, and ranting about the state of the world.
This poem ends with a strong, unsettling punch for those who recognize “work will set you free” as the German saying still visible on the gates to Auschwitz. With that line, Andy Posner launches his poem over our country.