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Tuesday, March 29, 2011


by Diane Raptosh


            The U.S. is broker than all get out is how it’s been put.
                                                              I’m broke, no bread, I mean like nothing,
                     Ray Charles belted, and he meant it. The wood thrush

     through twin voice boxes sings with himself. Bup bup
              bup. You can break the bank, break land, break fasts: a horse
                         that’s Cowboy Broke is double  fried.

                                              Betty ate some bitter batter. There is this game
             plan called the Double Irish Defense. It quietly
     moves firms’ profits

                                               through Ireland and the Netherlands, clean
         into Bermuda.
                                         This land is growing cash

                  the way Old Brooklyn sprouted
                                 weed in guiltless backyards: sanitation workers
                                                               seized more than nineteen tons of pot

                                             from city lots alone, summer of ’51. The next
            year, a crop was found beside the Brooklyn
                   Federal Building. Alongside dandelion rosettes. And tissue pips.

                             Declare a war on that.


                                    When strapped for cash you can’t exactly stick up Carl’s Junior.
                             I’ve got kids, like I said.  Their eyeballs glide back
and forth across my face the way ant larvae sway

             to say feed me. You ever stared into that? Sutton never would
                                rob a bank if a baby cried or a woman freaked at the sight
  of his Thompson. He’d step outside to roll a Bull Durham

                                        or try on some waterproof pants for his window washer disguise.
    I like to think of him as my stunt-double, the single
                                                              meal at my table. If you have one

                                                                       buck in your wallet that’s more
                             than the tax burden of Citibank for a year.    Fine
                                      is not a sound. I didn’t have a plan. The sun began mooning me

that July day, nudging me toward the front doors of Wells Fargo.
             That was my first one. It takes thirteen
                                                               million calories to raise up a child. Times that

                                              by three, and that’s a ton of Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Meals,
                    even at $3.99 pre-tax—sometime during which deal Wells Fargo
            guped a whole firm that hopes to keep being called  Wachovia    Wachovia    Wachovia


I’ve hovered on the Twitter trends for days.
                                               But nowhere did this fact click through—
              The Fortune 500 now runs the Republic. Hit-and-run

                            sleight of hand and tongue—Peter Piper picked
                                                      the purse of pickled workers. Prisons
                        both empty towns and keep them alive.

            Videos of me tucking a gun at my waist and a wad of fat
                                       bills in my left-hand front pocket went suddenly viral. I need money
      to feed my kids, you see

                                              me say. The sheriff ID’d me through telephone tips.
            They claim I wasn’t living with children
                                    at time of arrest, but that’s a flat lie.

                               The gun wasn’t real, the fierceness a stunt to veil frailty: I had toquit
            my barista shifts just before Christmas. The Kickin’ Cup filed
                      a complaint. Couldn’t make bills. The system

                                                                    will have to call you back. What’s just one inch
                      past the edge of the universe?     A small band
of men have made off with the wealth. My cellmate always smelled like malt vinegar.


                                Among us rosarians, the line dividing old
                       and modern roses is 1867—the year the hybrid tea
                                     was introduced. The antiques earned their bloated

                                odors: the Boule de Neige, a Bourbon, spouts white blooms
                         that smell like cold cream. A single blossom
           of Sombreuil, the white-flowered climbing tea,

                             fills a whole room like thoughts
     that choose to groom their own
              thinking. When I sing in the shower, I swerve

to the left to make room
               for a possible harmony. Towns
                                 get their prisons and fill them

                                                                         with folks who vend their dime bags.
                                But for stealing a billion dollars?
                                                                         The Declaration of Independence

                                                           was printed on hemp. Right piece
                                                     of art if you ask me,
                                                  little nets of madness on the writing.

Diane Raptosh teaches literature and creative writing at The College of Idaho. She has published three books of poems, Just West of Now (Guernica Editions, 1992), Labor Songs (Guernica, 1999), and Parents from a Different Alphabet: Prose Poems (Guernica, 2008). Her work has previously appeared in The New Verse News. She may be reached at draptosh(at)