What Rough Beast | Poem for November 11, 2017

Zachary Taylor Knox

We the people heard their songs from the cotton fields, their sorrow haunted our confused rage
We held power in each hour of each year
We stomped their hopes but never their fears
We worried what if they would revolt next year?
We kept them down even when
We gave them freedom
We turned up our noses because they weren’t like
We they had developed their own frightening identity so what if they were free
We are better
We are sophisticated
We wear turtleneck sweaters
We wore white hoods because they lived in hoods and looked scary,
We separated churches, schools, and history
We assured ourselves it was right despite the guilty feeling deep down inside
We shoved that away by starting a charity
We sold the idea they needed our help because
We told ourselves they weren’t smart and that was the science
We learned at the university the professor assigned
We to read in a book, but despite the generous morality
We showed them, they assembled against
We and cried for equality but what of the freedom
We granted to the slaves? ungrateful knaves
We sacrificed brothers, fathers, sons in the great civil war, what more could they want?
We tried to teach them respect but they became upset and riot flipping cars in the streets
We tried to give them culture by teaching nietzsche and wagner but they made their own
We bought it and appreciated at a distance even listened to the lessons they preached
We kept acceptance just out reach by turning it into our own
We kept them working for free in that way
We of course made sure they had a home and food to atone
We want to fight for their right to be left alone but they reject our help
We just want them to keep the homes and food
We slaved 9 to 5 to give them projects while
We sat in our nice suburban homes
We just don’t understand they have their freedom they have their equality
We made them a month of history yet still they bemoan
We even gave them their own identity politically, African american
We are real sorry
We humbly regret that
We just don’t get it yet
THEY are the ones trying to get us through our slavery for how can
We set them free if
We have never been free?
We are blind see it’s not them, why, you, me, i, he, she, or whatever identity it is WE


Zachary Taylor Knox’s poems have appeared in Ealain and Penny Ante Feud. He lives in Fort Madison, Iowa.

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