Benjamin Walker is an MFA Candidate at Hollins University in Roanoke,
Virginia. His poetry has appeared in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Blast Furnace
and PANK. More work is forthcoming from Weave Magazine, burntdistrict
and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change.
Star City, Late Night Radio
This isn't the time for another capsule.
Not time for just hope – hope that you'll
make it, angle through the monkey bars
of pay-stubs, can't scream hold on, goddamnit,
I'm not ready, I got third shift or nowhere to go.
Come on, man. Play another song. I know we try
never to think about the morning. I just want to drive
down Williamson Road, playing Robert Johnson
and Daniel Martin Moore on my stereo; to stick tight
to the ground, hoping no one will notice me;
to build a blanket fort, and wait for this to pass,
but a flock of cash advance huts perch along this street,
telling me I can't go home empty-handed
while Wells Fargo holds our skyline vice-grip tight.
The Tent City Curls Inward
McPherson Square, Washington DC
A tent dweller marks her address with the Sanskrit
sign for peace. Next to hers, one tent lists Pi out
to seven digits. I can't help noticing something
so irrational. My medic friend hangs rolls of gauze
on his belt, stuffs his pockets with antiseptic presses.
He places his hand on my shoulder and for a moment
I wonder if I've sliced my palm on a tent pole's edge.
He trashes his cigarette butt, says let me show you around.
Next occupier I meet has lived on McPherson
the last four months. The occupation has been here
three weeks. Tonight, a precious gift like every night
before, a local baker brings ninety-nine loaves
and we pass them around. The sun sets. The clouds
glow orange. The cops hunger, too, as they watch us.
Cold Was the Ground
after a song by Blind Willie Johnson
Ralph Stanley tells reporters he only played
'mountain music' the only way he could, until
the radio called it bluegrass. Think of all
the musicians he saw growing up that broke
his bones, set them slant, but only grazed ears
and faded away for the rest of us. If I become
that fellow who can't decide where along the bank
he'll cross, one of you easy swimming sons
of bitches better make it. We won't all be able
to stay home. One day soon, there'll be poison
in our groundwater. Some of you must find
a place of refuge, build a marker with our names
further down the river. This is all to say that when
the earth turns cold, I don't want to disappear.
On Being Forgotten
for the 99%
Chopper lights wander over our camp.
Our ultimatum: one day to disperse. The power
is cut. Numbness creeps, fingers to my chest.
Will there be no mural for us in the alley
beside a burger joint, no mark to testify
for our imagined commonwealth? We need
another golden record to slip through
the belt of ice surrounding our home planet,
float past the gods on guard duty in parallel
orbits. From its grooves, the transcript
of tarps rustling, chants against nightsticks, milk
bottles we empty into each other’s eyes, bread
scattered in panic, proof engraved on interplanetary
metal: whatever happens, we did not consent.
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