J.L. Weeks

American Dreams

We find them in back alleys
in crimson valleys
with crosses on their backs.

See them tucked away
in cornfields,
and aligning cul-de-sacs.

Blinded by the mountains,
with needles in their arms.
Crying out for something—
voices muffled by alarms.

Watch as they climb lampposts
screaming "God is dead".
See how they mistook honesty,
for a place to lie their head.

Witness their Sunday morning service,                                             
atoning for what they've done.                                                           
See them suffering in fallout shelters                                                
and picking fruit out in the sun.                                                         
I've seen them running with freight trains,
debt collectors on their heels.
Show me a man who's hungry—
I'll show you a man who steals.

Find them in sales pitches
bargaining with the company store.
Watch as they study billboards:
fine art for America's poor.

Penniless and drowning
in the Gulf Stream’s rising tide.
Finding purpose in tradition,
placing blame as a way to hide.

Saw their faces weeping
in between their protest signs.
Holding out for their savior,
losing hope in handout lines.

We clean their bloody knuckles;
we kiss their empty palms.
Latching on to spiteful phrases,
burning what’s left of the Book of Psalms.

Watch as they make sense
of what it is, they see.
Setting fire to all that's holy—
though they say "We shall be free".

Poet and writer J.L. Weeks is a native of Albany’s South End and a current resident of downtown. While much of her inspiration is rooted in her working-class upbringing, other  influences include Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Kim Addonizio, Charles Bukowski and Bob Dylan. Her eclectic style, is not just a patchwork of her own experiences but a glimpse into the lives of those around her. She is the author of several short stories and essays, though poetry is where she feels most at home. While finding beauty in society’s margins and heroes in the overlooked, she prefers to share her perspective through verse.

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