Christopher Henry Smith

Independent Arts Administrator

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Stasis, in Three Parts

I

When I say, “It’s hard,”
I mean, for other people.

What I feel watching the news
Is, at best, third-hand grief.
I own no pain, just a
Comfortable viewing position.

Jenny’s in the hospital watching her hair fall out.
The cops won’t stop shooting us.
Paris is on fire.

But here:
In Uptown,
In Chicago,
In the apartment above the Ethiopian place,
Just across the street from the Green Mill,
At the top of the stairs on the right,
Down to the end of the hallway
(No, not that door, the other one),
I’ve just met you.

And I’m trying to be upset—to weep for our world—
But you’re coming over later,
And we’ll drink wine.

II

“Why doesn’t the treasury just
Print more money?”
She asked.
“Not a lot, but, you know,
Enough to help where it’s needed.”

Greying temples and a discontented grin,
The figure at the front of the class,
Departed from discussing poverty
And taught us a bit about balance.

I now think that's how “Goodness” works:
In steady symmetry with “Not-Goodness.”

Equation-mad, there is somewhere a
Mathematician, quietly accounting compassion,
Filling ledgers with love and
Corresponding columns with hate,
Sleep deprived over proportions,
As we amble around sad or happy,
Thinking it comes so easily.

“Why doesn’t someone just print more good?”
Because of the overseas markets!
Do you want to lose value on what kindness we do have!?

III

I see churches burning across the South,
Complicit masses with mouths shut tight,
And young men confusing ammunition for answers.

I wonder if we are responsible for some of that.
Hoarding our happiness, are we
Keeping it from those who most need it?

The way I feel thinking of you—
That must be a civil war in a country I couldn’t find on a map.

And your eyes when I make you laugh—
There goes another village mud-sliding down a mountain.

And when you say that you love me—

A prime minister is shot.
The doctors come in with bad news.
Suicide bombers aren’t thwarted.
Hate crimes abound in areas
Where the newspaper won’t run the story.
Scientists look on as a new virus is born.
Shuttles implode on takeoff.
Drones strike at civilian targets.
White men in suits cover up a rape
(And then a murder,
And then a military coup).
The baby is lost.

And I,
In disbelief,
Smile and respond,
“I love you, too.”

Chicago, IL
2015

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