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  • "You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep."
    - Navajo proverb

    My mom's mom did not join the Communist party.
    She married young to a doctor, both expecting
    what we are taught to expect -
    to be taken care of, or at least not hurt,
    if they followed the rules -
    and when they didn't get what they expected,
    they died demanding it
    silently
    with the cold shoulder and the poorly scrambled eggs
    and the inconsistent vacuuming at 4am
    and the blanket of bitterness
    metallic magnanimousness
    his homemade yogurt and apple butter
    and her self-deprecating Boston bathroom humor
    and her keeping the solarium neat and tidy,
    plastic bowling pins dusted and grandkid-ready
    his planting, watering, weeding the vegetable garden
    her addition of the fresh tomatoes
    to the baloney sandwiches with Heinz and sometimes Hellman's,
    spread on the Meal of Romans,
    added like hot sauce to the desperately mild moments
    to keep the whole thing going
    like a whiskey neat
    or a marathon of Bonanza episodes, or cheap western novels
    where John Wayne after John Wayne
    dusts in half-broken, and somehow makes it right
    or falling asleep at 5:15 after another TV dinner at 5
    and waking at 4am, hoping like Pavlov's dog
    for bearable, sweet loneliness.
    No one was related to Howard Zinn.
    No one knew Noam Chomsky.
    No one tried to claim to have Coloreds as friends.
    Someone performed an abortion, was sued, and gave up.
    Someone else couldn't bear the arguing
    after "surviving" the depression
    and ended it with the lawnmower in the toolshed.
    Some elder Irish Catholic sisters had opened a hotel in Vermont
    and run a metal yard and danced burlesque
    and knitted together and never married,
    and had taught the men at the time, who was in charge -
    no small feat in 1890, let alone today.
    But you all have done more to make everyone in charge
    in half the time, trust me.
    Some of them - most of them - voted for Joseph McCarthy,
    and complained about that Bill Cosby.
    No one paid attention when you pretended you didn't mistrust them -
    they already mistrusted you, but you were the right price,
    and everything they touched was more or less gold,
    and everything about you was weird, a suffered rust.
    No one was suicidal when you did mistrust them -
    for very good reasons they could scarcely feel.
    Everyone called genocide "freedom" and freedom "terror."
    Everyone hoped to benefit from the gains of the others.
    No one did much about the bill of goods
    they couldn't afford to realize they'd been sold.
    And no one knew to want to learn from you,
    and in doing so, suffer the rust on their souls.
    No one -
    except
    me.
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