for Jack Highberger

We sit in his van, art supplies

and partially scraped palettes

on the floor, my back pack

of poems next to me on the seat.

We drink coffee and tea

looking over the salt water river

behind Starbucks,

a seagull on a rotted raft,

a sailboat sitting on a mud bank.

He wants to know what’s

fair about how America has sold

out to Wall Street and made

the middle class foot the bonus bill.

I tell him nothing is fair,

it’s the game we are given,

those are the rules.

I tell him I’ve surrendered.

“The problem is too big,”

I say, “the monster too strong.”

I think of it stomping

tiny buildings under its

feet, villagers running

for the hills.

He’s not satisfied with

my answer and I know why,

because he is a wise person,

a fair person, a good person,

and the idea of not setting it

right makes no sense to him.

He wants what we all want—

justice. I sip some more tea look

at the water again, the way

the dirty river winds out to

nowhere, to the promise of open

ocean, and I think

the only way to “beat them,”

is too live in spite

of them. I can help a kid to

maybe write a poem he didn’t

know he had in him, he can

show that clumsy little girl

how to make a painting that

will change her life,

“there’s real joy in that,” I say.

The other universe operates on

its own, the rich live in a different

climate, all we can do is hope

they don’t notice us,

hope they read poetry,

hope they buy art, hope someday

it makes sense to them.

Copyright © 1999 – 2024 Juked