Three Poems by Anne Champion


How Capitalism Breathes

Through a gas mask/ in a uniform/ hurling tear gas/ with a chokehold/ elbow cocked like a gun/ deep inhale/ holding its breath/ ducking for cover during a mass shooting/ the aroma of factory chimneys smells like money/ through a gas mask/ does blood smell like power/ drop the noose/ drop the bombs/ the drone operator breathes through a yawn/ with liberty and oxygen for some/ one woman’s strangulation means more air to be gulped by men/ through a gas mask/ if you want air you need to work for it/ there’s not enough breath to go around/ we can’t breathe/ give us this day our daily breath/ build a wall as tall as the heavens and we’ll keep the air to ourselves/ during an epidemic of snorting/ forgive capitalism its sins/ its whiffs of tropical winds/ its whips/ its chains/ its trails of tears/ who gasps who pants who wheezes who begs for an oxygen tank/ not it/ make a wish/ blow out the smoking guns/ through a gas mask/ amen.


How Capitalism Hides

In the trigger fingers of lone wolves
that have momentarily separated from their pack

of other lone wolves.

In the drone targeting the wedding party,
destroying the evidence of its presence with fire,

in smoke that rises up in the shapes of ancient
beasts over ancient cities.

In the locks
on Lambourghini doors

that spread open like angel wings.

Inside the the pockets of pantsuits worn
by politicians
promising progress to voters
and profit to Goldman-Sachs.

Behind the television screens
and the talking heads
of the glittering Kardashians.

Crouching camouflaged and waiting with sniper fire
behind the glossy promises of every advertisement.

In the vision of those
who see cultural appropriation

as if it’s wearing an invisibility cloak.

In the yellowed, stiff pages of history books,

in the whip and the chain and the long scars
on black backs.

In the impoverished countries advertised on envelopes
as needing,
desperately needing,

In your tax withdrawals from your paycheck
turned to manure
and shoveled by the military

to fertilize war.

In the tax dollars that go to countries

to buy weapons
from American corporations.

Under the railroad tracks,
laid down by cheap labor.

In stagnant air of windowless factories abroad,
by child labor.

In the lulling music of the words “American Dream.”

Beneath the blankets of the homeless during a hail storm.

It’s the tool that picks your locks, it’s your fear
when the lights go out.

Its scent is in the air, in your hair, on your clothes, under your armpits—

you reek of decay.

If you sleep, it’ll hunt you in your dreams.

Whatever you do,
don’t look under your bed.

How Capitalism Sells Itself

Are you looking to make your whites whiter?

All you need is some THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS and an AMERICAN DREAM.

Your whites will come out looking whiter than ever.

Just a cup of IN GOD WE TRUST will get out a blood stain as big as a genocide!

I’m telling you, it’s unreal, it’s EXCEPTIONAL, it’s a SUPERPOWER formula that WINS EVERY WAR.

There’s a generic Swiss Dream version, but it’s cheaper and not very PATRIOTIC.

(America, what do you have that needs washing this time? Is it your hood?)

What you need is a formula that will turn you into a HERO: ARMY STRONG with your BOOT STRAPS pulled up all the way to the heavens!

You’ll be amazed by it—you can pour a MELTING POT into the machine and it will still come out whitewashed! It’s practically RAGS TO RICHES!

And the best part is that it’s made BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE. It was BUILT BY IMMIGRANTS. It’s blessed by the ghosts of the FOUNDING FATHERS.

(And it uses their secret ingredient for success: slaves! Talk about DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION!)

It’s going to turn everything in your LAND OF OPPORTUNITY whiter than a WHITE PICKET FENCE.

If you believe in FREEDOM, if you live in the HOME OF THE BRAVE, and if you can afford it, then you can have LIBERTY AND JUSTICE in your home.

THE AMERICAN DREAM: Buy it now! Forget about the price!

Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work appears in Crab Orchard Review, Verse Daily, Tupelo Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany Magazine, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere.  She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient. She currently teaches writing and literature in Boston, Massachusetts. More:

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