Saturday, March 23, 2013

Two Poems by M.V. Montgomery

28 November 2008

The Thanksgiving crowd massed
under the star of the Wal-Mart sign,
and those who had waited all night
for plasma TVs and digital cameras
became resentful of the apostates
who had not kept faithful vigil.

Newcomers were cold and frustrated,
pushing against the bodies in front
to compact the empty spaces in line,
as if this might reduce the length
of their wait. And the crowd grew,
from the hundreds to two thousand.

The executives who placed sale ads
had arranged the Valley Stream event
during a period of deep recession
but hoped to stir up a rich frenzy.
The store was to become a holiday
war zone, left for workers to defend.

Jdimytai Damour clocked in for work
and worried about the crowd outside.
His job was on the maintenance crew,
but it is cheaper for a company to hire
temps in place of security guards
when human shields are needed.

Mobs push from the back, blindly—
forcing feet to thrust for any hold
they can find. And so the store guests
pressed against the aluminum door,
bent it like a bow, finally burst in
still chanting, Open up, open up!

Damour was knocked on his back.
His coworkers and even the police
couldn’t reach him in the onrush.
Meanwhile, the shoppers advanced
into the warm, Muzak-filled world
where they could at last breathe free.

Afterwards, they complained about
the crime scene delays all the way
through checkout, pushing their carts
past the sliding Exit doors before
these too were finally locked,
and any witnesses were sought.

It was business as usual by noon
when the store reopened. No one
remained from the tragic initial press.
The company had apologized for
the inconvenience, mixing clich├ęs with
inadvertent puns about those impacted.

Still, all of us who have ever rushed
to a sale must own to a small share
of guilt. Perhaps just enough to
honor a man from Jamaica , Queens
whose name means love, and pledge
to stay home on Black Friday.


They began to be sold after the battle of Kinsale.
First, as political prisoners; next, for any petty
offense that could be drummed up. Finally, for
the crime of simply being Irish. After the War,
transportation of three hundred thousand.

Then, “Connaught or Hell”: no choice but exodus
west of the Shannon or relocation to the Americas.
One warning reads: Those banished who return
are to suffer the pains of death as felons by virtue
of this act, without benefit of clergy.

From the West Indies, Colonel William Brayne
wrote back to report horrific abuses—Irish slaves
worked to death, hung from their hands, set afire.
He argued for the importation of more Africans,
who stood a chance of better treatment.

We all read Swift’s Modest Proposal in school
but are not told something like it once happened:
under Cromwell, children age ten to fourteen taken
from Catholic parents, treated like chattel, forced
to breed future populations of slaves.

M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University. His most recent book is What We Did With Old Moons.

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