In Whose Custody the Flags?


The flags are at full-staff

Though Jackeline is dead

Of dehydration

And the Guatemalan boy whose name

Has not been released

Is dead

Of the flu—

They died in our custody.

The flags remain at full-staff,

Their stars going dim with grief

As refugees beg

For a glass of water

Or a dose of Ibuprofen and Amoxicillin

On the kitchen counter,

Next to the bills and Church flier—

They died in our custody.

Just after Jackeline died

But before the Guatemalan boy

Whose name has not been released,

My son Richard was born

At a world-class hospital:

8 pounds 6 ounces. Apgar score of 8;

The birth announcement on Facebook

Garnered 160 likes and 47 comments—

They died in our custody.

In whose custody are these flags?

In whose name are they raised and lowered,

Repaired or replaced, honored or disgraced?

I ask because

Jackeline is dead

Of dehydration,

The Guatemalan boy whose name

Has not been released

Is dead

Of the flu—

And they died in America.

(Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin died at the age of seven on December 8, 2018 

My son was born on Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Guatemalan boy died on Christmas Eve, 2018 at the age of eight. He was later identified as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez

Written Wednesday, December 25, 2018)



In Polite Society


In polite society we hold doors open,

Say thanks and please, wear crisp

Suits when we drop bombs.

In polite society we shake the hands

Of blacks and Latinos and native peoples,

Smile as we strip them of their rights.

In polite society we wear bright jewels

Mined by slaves, decry slavery,

Tip generously.

In polite society we destroy the Earth

To make us rich, create jobs

That pay the poor to be poor.

And in polite society

We are never rude, never mean—

We murder democratically.


The Gardener


We have pitched an innocent man against the

Thousand blades of grass.

Once a week the battle is waged;

Each green sword glints with dew.

But our man is well armed: we have given

Him motors, gasoline, blades faster

Than the wind, and so he goes trampling

Because our yard needs taming:

He leaves the lawn strewn with

Wilting corpses—their rot attracts

A pair of curious bluebirds.

For the moment victory smells like sprinklers

And empty fields.

For the moment our house is in order.

Then a rainstorm soaks the earth

Like an oil-well run amok,

Wreaks havoc on gutters and sewers,

Floods the streets, knocks down trees,

Holes us up in our homes,

Where through windows we observe

Hope erase carnage.

A week passes and the proud grass

Again waves beneath the wind.

The grass has a human spirit that

Grows endlessly, sprouts from the soil,

And wonders why we bother to hire

Mercenaries to fight a war

That must never come to an end.



Andy Posner

Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.

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