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Tuesday, December 21, 2021


by John Kaufmann

The enemies of American democracy? Big lie, big anger and big money. Saving American democracy will require stopping these three powerful forces already on the way to destroying it. —Robert Reich, The Guardian, December 19, 2021

A pallet of salt,
a bucket of chlorine, cement blocks,
two-by-six, one-by-two, shims, PVC, Pex.
I measure you by dollar figures, volume,
weight, time (although that’s the same
as money). Weigh
me, you say. Feel me.
Skirting panels, J-channels, trusses,
purlins, OSB.  A rust-bucket
excavator and a skid steer.  That was big.
I buy you because the lid
tends to blow off. Pipes burst, roofs collapse, septics clog.
Things fall apart. That’s 9,999,999 years
of kidney stones and payment plans,
and another 666,666 of holes you can’t stop digging.
And it gets worse;
it’s the fine print that will kill you,
but it’s the finer print that will grind you down. 
Pipe cutter, jig saw, ozone machine, tamper—
I buy you to shape the world, 
but the world shapes me.
Still, I use you to bang against it.
A caudillo with hair the color of a lion, a gaze
blank and pitiless as I-don’t-know-what and stubby hands
is moving his greasy thighs among the indignant desert birds—
but it’s not in Egypt this time. It’s here,
in the cracked septic tanks, the water mains made of electrical conduit and duct tape,
the shoddy foundations, the rotting window frames and leaky roofs.
It’s in the kung flu, the water boiling
slowly as the frogs hump, the Vulpine
chants to lock her up—or him—someone, please—
We have traced the call, ma’am, and it’s coming from inside the house.
Nuts, bolts, washers, screws (“I love you”, they say),
Wingnuts, eye bolts, U-bolts, hanger bolts, sex bolts.
Common nails, box nails, roofing nails, brads. I love you, too.
Not because you’ll bind us together. We are fated to spin out
like a bunch of Balkan states, a rogue galaxy or a pyrotechnic display.
I love you for the way you ding! when I drive you home, the way
you marry your two halves when I tighten you, how
you cleave a roof panel to a truss and how you bite into cement.
I love you because you don’t budge—because you
stay put while we are thrown against the fan, emerge
and float off into blue heaven, scattered.

John Kaufmann is a former lawyer, current mobile home park owner who lives in southern New York State.  His writing has been published in The High Plains Register, Off Assignment, Litro, The Journal of the Taxation of Financial Products, The Journal of Taxation of Investments, and Tax Notes