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Friday, February 06, 2009


by Khary Jackson aka 6 is 9

A pound of rice sits on the shelf as an unanswered prayer.
There is a calloused hand reaching for it.
Straining. Shaking.
It cannot reach.

In Haiti they call it Clorox Hunger.
As if their stomachs are being eaten by battery acid or bleach.
They feast on mud cakes and bark to stave off starvation,
and not because the food isn't there.

From Haiti to Egypt, Senegal, Mauritania,
their voices seem only to be heard when backed by riots,
UN peacekeepers cut down by their neighbors.

Our grandiose world is shrinking.
Our nightmares multilingual.

Two blocks down, we can hear neighbors fighting
over who gets to use their oil. Their voices are muffled by
tanks and exploding cars.

The third exit off the highway is where our leaders
pretend to address climate change.

Downtown are the mansions, where we live,
where our dumpsters are filled with food we were too full for,
where our lights are on long after
we kissed each other goodnight.

Further down, where the highway ends,
you'll find the farmers,
who now profit more from ethanol than wheat.

And in the slums, you find the starving.
The ones making less than a dollar a day.
Peaceful citizens tempted into violence when their stomachs
scream of Clorox.

Distance is illusion, suffering is immediate as the air,
their voices are more than potholes on the highway.
This is our City.
Here, we cannot throw a rock with
someone having to dodge.
We cannot feast without the odor escaping our kitchen
into the streets, tormenting the starving,
and they are tired of waiting.
They are dying from waiting.

Yes, there are terrorists.
Then there are those who are given no other choice.
Those are the ignored, the hands prevented from reaching the shelf.
The rice sits as an unanswered prayer.
And when our gods don't answer, we turn to our guns.
We did not take their guns.

At the entrance to this city of God
is an abandoned church.
On the door, it says,
"Welcome, beloved, to the city that saves itself."

Khary Jackson aka 6 is 9, currently residing in Saint Paul, but born in Detroit, is a teaching artist, a playwright and nationally-recognized slam poet.