Monday, August 16, 2004

Ludlow Massacre, 1914
Her name was Little Lucy, no connection to Lucille Ball,
but visitors at the Capitol Mall didn't need to know.

She worked the crowd, flashed her dimples,
wore smoke-soaked clothes, no shoes for her,

the only familiar thing, a hooded black sweat shirt
so she wouldn't look cold, although she was way past

feeling anything since iron rain had fallen
upon her family's tent in Ludlow, Colorado,

when everything she knew had soaked into the ground.
Now she was telling them how it was her birthday,

counted eight more of her at home, spoke their names,
how she lived on the wrong side of the monument,

didn't have a single present, no, not one.
She really didn't want their rings and bracelets.

It was a game she enjoyed playing,
to make people act like they cared for her.

Time to testify at hearings,
walk past lobbyists with American flags
pinned on woolen lapels, take a number,

sit down, and wait until called.
Betty's boy, because that's what people
always had called him when he was living

with Lucy at Ludlow, took a seat in the second row
next to the rest of the delegation, wondered
when he was going to find a playground.

He hadn't come all this way
to climb a bunch of granite.
Betty's boy remembered laughter coming through

the deep muffle. Because if there was one thing
he could do with his life, that was
to keep playing.

None of the chairman
for the President's Commission on Violence
had seen anything like them,
the way they took to the podium
as though they were in a bowling alley,
and they, the 10 Senators, pins.

"Must've taken a school bus
to get you here,"
said one of the members.

But it was clear by the way
the Senator bent into his microphone,
he saw trouble.

For we are not sons and daughters of the middle class
who go to summer camps and take tap-dance lessons.

Our last day here we waited for night.
Night finally came like a wanted child.

Give us a souvenir, a piece of blue sky,
to take back with us to where the tules grow,

where Ms. Universe has corn rows,
twists, and plants stars.

You think we are children.
But you do not know who we are.

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