Daily Archives: June 19, 2019

A Social Construct

Originally posted 6-19-2018.  Revised.

“Race doesn’t exist,
you know.
It’s just
a social construct,”

he said.

I jabbed him gently
in the face
with my real fist.

When
real men
showed up waving
real guns
and real badges, 

I indicated
that whatever
we all did next

in response
was in fact a social construct —

whether or not I went
easily, whether or not
they took me down, whether
I lived or died or they lived or died — 

none of it was real
and all of it
should be easily ignored,

but for some reason
they did not ignore a thing.

Was arrested, a social construct.
Made bail, a social construct.
Went to trial, 
a social construct.
Pled out, a social construct.

Got probation, a social construct.
Came out marked
and
civically blighted,

a social construct.

Race is
a social construct

that works better for me than for many.

That’s real.

Money is
a social construct

that works better some days
than others for me,
better overall for some folks,
much worse overall
for others.

That’s real. 

What’s real
is a social construct

unless it’s
a mountain

or a desert
or a robin
or a lion

or the skin
you’re in,
the hair you

grow or do not grow,
the strength of
your pulse or
the jerk it makes
as it slows and stops
in response to a bullet
entering your body.

How quickly it stirs
at the screaming
of a child not your own, or at
the sight of
someone else’s blood
on a cracked street?

That’s a social construct.

On page or screen
I’m a social construct.

I wish sophistry
wasn’t so damn real.


Riddle

Originally posted 9-15-2016.

Here is a riddle

A clerk at a butcher shop
stands five feet ten inches tall
and wears size 13 sneakers

What does he weigh?

Meat
He weighs meat  

Ha ha
good one
we’re supposed to say and
it’s true as far as it goes but

it doesn’t take into account 
the possibility 
that the butcher might also sell
various deli items

and the clerk
might weigh out piles of slices 
of provolone into 
white waxed paper 
sealed with brown tape labels 
with name and price handwritten 
in black grease pencil
or that said clerk might also weigh
heaps of potato salad
into plastic tubs
from a white enamel case 
with huge sliding doors

the way Michael Morelli did
when I was a kid
on my family’s Saturday morning trips
to his dad’s market in Milford
I remember his old man 
would hand slices of cheese
over the counter to me with a wink
when my mom wasn’t looking

The riddle also
doesn’t take into account
that the same clerk might also 
at some point 
have to weigh
a decision set before him

whether to maintain 
this family business
or sell the building to a barber
upon his father’s death
so he might go on 
and do other things

It skips entirely
the possibility
that the clerk might also 
continue to weigh
the consequences of that decision
every time he passes
the now empty and decrepit
storefront that long ago
went from being
a butcher shop
to a barber shop
to an antique shop
to a computer repair shop
to an empty shop
to a broken hole 
on a broken block 
in a broken downtown

The clerk goes home
Weighs himself
Sighs
Stares into his bathroom mirror
Ssits in the dark
in his clean modern kitchen
at the butcher block island

Ha ha
Good one
he says

This riddle is endlessly retold
for new audiences

more and more of whom
have never seen
a butcher shop
white paper
brown tape
grease pencil

have never smelled
mingled sawdust and blood

never felt the cold blast of air
from the walk-in
where full quarters of beef
hang behind glass
behind the counter

So now
here’s a new riddle

A writer on a couch with a laptop
five foot eight when standing
wears a size ten shoe
at 59 is shocked to realize
he can still remember
the name of a butcher
and his son
who once owned a shop
that’s been gone
for most of his lifetime
and at how much 
this memory weighs

When does this all get funny