Is this How Empathy Ends?
By sam sax
i don’t have it in me to flee again
so i suppose this is my country
good morning stop sign | 70 degree fall | gutted business | bus graffitied in hate
speech | boarded up building
on the 78th anniversary of kristallnacht
we watch a man ascend the highest throne
wearing a bloodied street around his neck
night of broken glass | knight of columbus | night of long knives
| good night moon | good night-bloom | good god
bet they called my family
insane for leaving
good morning torture music | deportation camp | good morning surging
prison stock | stockade | embargo | golgotha | gomorrah | gone
can’t hardly look a person in the face
today without thinking he wouldn’t mind me
or my loved ones dead.
good morning destroyed news orgs | organized labor | corpse orgasm
| good eating | good grieving | good feasting | good fast
over dinner my grandparents ask
why i’m so shook. they say
don’t worry sam
they’re not coming for you
sam sax is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series. His second book Bury It will be out on Wesleyan University Press in 2018. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, & The Michener Center where he served as the Editor-in-chief of Bat City Review. He’s the two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion & author of four chapbooks. Winner of the 2016 Iowa Review Award his poems are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Ploughshares, Poetry Magazine, + other journals.
This is an extremely powerful poem. I’m not sure “this time” has enough punch to give the poem the conclusion it deserves, BUT that’s a microscopic concern given the poem’s overall depth and dark lyricism.