Less Than 1%
By Tony Brown

who grew up on
the reservation

with my father,
said tonight while we were all watching
the news:

Everything here’s occupied
and has been for years –
why are they so willing
to claim the word all of a sudden?

And why should a change
in occupiers matter to those of us
in the less
than one percent? Everything’s

stolen — how the thieves
divide it
doesn’t matter much
to the robbed.

Not sure what to say to that –
half of me nodding my head,
half of me wanting to hide.

Labor Day
By Tony Brown

The rude elements
have dressed your dirt-blessed hand;
do not apologize for that.
Make the rich ones, the clean ones,
shake it. Make them look at your face
and see you: balding, fat,
forearms threaded and popping
with the result of work. Force them
to see your clothes, how thin the fabric
on your jeans, the patches,
the tears. Give them a moment
to take it all in before you smack them
with how you’ve built them
and their multifaceted estates
and holdings. Seize their throats
and gently push upon them
the everlasting schedule
of your simplified days –
how each day you rise, sup,
work, sup, work, sup, and sleep;
a routine broken only by the time you steal
to make children, make a home, or
bounce the baby on your greasy knee.
Dammit, none of the dirt you carry
makes you their sort of unclean!
You deserve a moment of anger
as you count pennies, consider famine,
make do. You’re as much a glue
for this shiny cracked country
as any glitter-fed celebrity
or squinting dollar-breeding usurer;
make it known. Grab them one and all
by their hands
and make them shake, show them
the honest tan under your grime.
If fear is the likely result,
it may be the wedge
to open the door
they’ve kept barred for so long –
and who better than you
to open it? It’s only your shoulder,
so long pressed to the wheel,
that can possibly burst that lock.