This Is What America Has Come To

Two necessary poems by Terese Svoboda

This Is What America Has Come To


Herded into Walmart (big arms

to live in the aisles of glittering Big C
where the bare shelves says it all:

make money,

these are boys, ages 10–17.

Hate does not
dissolve like jell-o, it hardens with ICE.

The big war hero is referring to
a 1985 real estate deal

blocked by NYC tenants. He refused
repairs, begged the city to house

the homeless
in the building to get rid of the tenants
who won. Thirty-three years ago.

Even cruder men,
(meaning “mankind” except for the “kind,
but including women),

politicos (the rapt collective) call on god
to justify –

I get off FB, its talons tight,
ready to drop me from a great height.

The Walmart shelf’s empty but for
the rock
a mother gave her son (rocks survive


Don’t forget the angry fathers,

and the shelves, their miles wicking desire –

O let me have that
like your own Felix
and the tired immigrant who is everyone’s grandfather (yes,

Native Americans came from elsewhere)
who rolls the cart fast to checkout.

(is the soap they offer stone?)

Mothers call coyotes to return
to certain death

so senators can say See
how greedy we are, O say can you see?

O the letters I write, the calls I make –
(they’ll come for us next)

the parents hundreds of miles away,
not shopping, not paying taxes
not weeding
not cleaning
not tending our children.

where you are, says the movie,
say the cowards (we get the brave ones).

They were not frozen the way we are,
waiting for elections
to be overseen by Russians,
as if our lives

depended on it.
Try to smile, we tell them.


Only pirates elect their captain
but we trump, trump, trump them.

Who is less responsible in the long line
of Not me from one president to the next?

Cumulative, like rain. Drums beat the main streets,
the main sheets, as rain always has.

Rations, yes, we hold our nearly empty cups
to our mouths, and our humanness, that mess,

gets excreted over the side, but this time
the ocean won’t take it. We stand in it,

we pray for more storm. Some sacrifice to the gods,
collect those oranges, drink the proffered wine.

The miracle: rainbows spread democratically
beyond the stern where imperfect sailors stand

on imagined solid ground, witless, good only for
interplanetary export, more planets that need

to be taken down or seined out of the water
reflecting us, so needy, so Narcissus.

About the Author

Terese Svoboda’s seventh book of poetry is Professor Harriman’s Steam Air-Ship (Eyewear). She has poems forthcoming in Poetry, Manoa, Juked, and Tupelo Quarterly. Great American Desert, a book of stories, will be published next year.

“Sometimes By Losing a Battle You Find a New Way to Win a War” and “Men Wrecking the God Place” are published here by permission of the author, Terese Svoboda. Copyright © Terese Svoboda 2018. All rights reserved.

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