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I claim many things, but being a poet ain't one. Writer, yes. Musician, sometimes. Cartoonist... well, not really, but I pretend OK. I never claimed to be a poet, though. I can't really wrap my head around everything involved.

That said, this thing has been plaguing me for months. Sort of hanging over my shoulder, whispering in my ears, looking at me in a vaguely accusing, disappointed manner. I have to do something with it, so I'm going to put it here, get it out of my system, move on. Apologies in advance.

That said, if you're going to be any kind of artist, you have to be willing to make an ass of yourself in public occasionally. This is, apparently, one of those occasions.

There's a column on the left,
and a column on the right;
and it's all numbers, friend, all numbers,
and the numbers are everything.

The man with the numbers wants the ones on the left
to go down,
to get smaller,
to get as small as it can possibly go.

And the man with the numbers wants the ones on the right
to get larger,
always larger,
forever, hallelujiah, amen.

The numbers on the right are his.
They are his children,
they are his future,
he will defend them with tooth and with claw.

The other column, that's everything else,
and it includes you and it includes me:
That other column is all the room we got
and it's getting smaller, friend. Smaller every day.

Used to be there was more room,
and we'd all drift to our respective corners,
carving out numbers for ourselves,
seeking out other numbers just like us,

the odds on one side, evens on the other,
maybe a spot for only primes,
a few figured out how to get squared and get cubed,
getting so big it looked like they belonged in the other column.

They called that the "American Dream."

We mostly believed it was true.

But these days that trick is harder to do,
that column on the left is getting smaller every day,
the space is getting tight, we're getting piled up on one other
as the big long squeeze goes on and keeps squeezing.

"Leaner," they say, and the numbers on the left go down a tick.
The man with the numbers smiles.
"Leaner," they say, and the numbers on the left go down another tick,
and the man with the numbers smiles.

And all the while we're pressed together,
sardines in an ever-shrinking can,
clinging to all those borders we made in better days,
assuming those borders still mean something,
pretending there's a difference that's worth a damn,
ignoring that nothing really works the way it did,
believing the people who lie, and tell you everything's the same,
praying that everything will magically fix itself.

All that while there are whispers,
just under the babble of those lies, those assumptions, those prayers,
gathering at our feet, not quite ready to swell,
the pressure building, but we haven't noticed it yet,

Whispers from people who understand, to people who don't:

"Here we are, brother."

"Here we are, sister."

"We are all working class now."

I don't think we're ready to believe it. Not yet.
Some still have theirs, and think they'll get to keep it.
Others want it, and think they'll get it.
Still others see it, but resent it:

They resent the Johnny-come-latelies,
the ones with no callouses (yet), used to the soft life,
who were part of the problem for so damn long,
and now they want what? Esprit des corps?

"They don't belong," they say.
"They belong against the wall with the rest, when the revolution comes."
And they're a little bit right, I guess,
but a little bit right is still mostly wrong.

What we believe doesn't matter.

We don't balance that sheet.

It doesn't matter if you own a house today,
or drive a new car today,
or go to a good school today,
or have food on the table today,
or have health care today,
or the law is on your side today,
or have the respect of your peers today,
or have the right color skin today,
it doesn't matter if you have all the trappings today,
the only thing that matters is those numbers.

Those God-damned numbers.

It's a simple equation, friend: the left column feeds the right.
Someone figured out a way to make that work better:
make the left work harder,
make the right grow faster,
to do more with less,
to discard the rest,
because they got theirs,
and now they're getting ours,
and we're all in the sardine can, brother,
and we're all getting squeezed, sister,
and we are all working class now.

Originally posted to The Baptist Death Ray on Thu Jul 11, 2013 at 02:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Rebel Songwriters.

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