Writer and editor, St. Louis.
The 99 Percent Poem
by Catherine Rankovic
Daddy, this is not your America. We should
both be glad you are dead. Maybe you predicted
something like this when you said of Nixon,
“He looks like a crook.” We hated
not him but Carter, who said to drive fifty-five
and lower our home thermostats.
Dying when you did was your good luck.
I live along a highway named NN.
Alone with a gun, I redeem from road shoulders
bottles and tobacco tins, wrapping them in airy
plastic grocery bags of a kind you never saw.
All foodstuffs are factory sealed. On September 11, 2001,
my first act was to fill my car with gasoline,
My second, to move miles outside of the city.
We all know computers and they know us. In your America
everyone aspired to porches, canopies, shade
to sit in; everyone knew how lucky their liberty was.
That’s over; now freedom is having money enough
to collect memorabilia or go to Mardi Gras.
Mothers dump children in day-care centers
as children will dump them in nursing homes,
and I’d do the same if I had any children, but I didn’t,
Daddy, a matter of trust: When women have kids,
they sue now, and men order paternity tests.
You would not have liked my husband
whose dream was to live on disability payments,
And until then to live on unemployment benefits,
and on what I earned scrabbling like a rat.
You thought I was better, Daddy; I wasn’t.
And although you didn’t like the demonstrators
you saw while you lived, you might not
like either the weakling way we protest wars
with bumper stickers, or put ribbons on our cars
To urge wars on. Daddy, people murder
Arab shopkeepers, people you might have been mistaken for.
TV now has a hundred channels, a scroll, a rotisserie
of murders. I’ve lived here seven years
and have never met my neighbors, although I broke
into their telecom connection. We have passwords
and locks on everything, Daddy. There is so little,
A hardened hoarded stone of something, left in us,
not a gem, more like a fossil; no, copal;
and we guard it. Not like people who wanted to meet
other people, foreigners, exciting and different.
Daddy, the young people look like models
or are fat and sour at twelve as forty-five.
Women think disaster is a wrinkle on their faces,
And so do their men, who cannot judge themselves
by what they do, so judge by whatever they control.
Spectator sports are popular, expensive.
You said the Greyhound bus from Ellis Island
to Chicago was luxurious; I don’t dare say that now
because no one would believe what you said. I did not
do well. Thirty years after your American death
The house I rent looks like the one in the Old Country you were born in.
About Catherine Rankovic