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The People by Jo Stewart

(An Ode to the Americans)

We are The People
a living organism
in hues without number drawn
from the entire globe.

Many gambled with their lives
to be unyoked, to assemble for
whatever reason, to work, to pray
or not pray.

They came for freedom
in pursuit of elusive happiness
adventure
They came for bread
Their coming an unbroken chain
to this day
still risking
treacherous voyages
guided by slim hope at best
their courage fueled by
propagated tales of fortunes
without number in a new world
certain with the gambler’s
sense of surety.

Some came yoked, snatched from
primal villages, betrayed by kith,
man-handled by strangers. Their
voyage not a risk of choice but a
heart-breaking, back-breaking
voyage to be placed as choice
commodity, denuded
of recognizable words
of knowing ways,  the cacophony
of the marketplace.

On these shores lived
those who it is said came from
the east. In bands of
kith and kin, without the wheel
without the gun, hunted and
lived off the land, encroached
upon by civilization’s blind fury
diseased, betrayed, isolated
their sacred ways vanishing in
the white man’s firewater.
Neither all good

nor all bad, after 1492
their footprint a matter for history.

Merely four centuries later
three thousand miles were
crisscrossed with rails
factories, and farms.
It took two more centuries
to unchain the captives
to unchain women.

The new world became a caldron
a tabula rasa
a wild new life-form
growing
in every direction
The place where survival of the fittest
applied
and where the new people
had to prove themselves
to be accepted by those
who set foot upon the rock
earlier.

We are an enigma
Our existence gives pause to many
to others, we are a wonder
Some call us the great experiment.

Guns and brains collaborated
ruffians and gentry created
a nation, declaring
for the first time ever
the pursuit of happiness
an inalienable right of
humans, even while many were
not counted as fully human.

Rich and poor teeter-totter
Their fortunes and needs forever
intertwined. The Haves and Have-nots
often cannot resist greed. The People
tarnish but prevail
the balance of power
at issue, a struggle
in the pursuit of happiness.

Women and men earn
butter and bread
Capital makes the wheels turn in
factories, farms and railroads
It does not stand alone
Workers toil
day after day
their rewards
often denied
yet they build the high-rises
the libraries, roadways
and the schools.

They care for
their young for
their neighbors
they cut the grass
shop in
the neighborhood
serve on school boards.

It is The People
who heal the sick
put out
our fires, patrol
our streets, fight
our wars.

We
did not spring fully formed
from the body politic
We have emerged and
are emerging from the four
corners, from the fire in the
belly of our parents, and from
Gatsbian dreams.
We are not
only voters
and non- voters.
Our favor sought
Our interests sold.

The People are not
soulless sheep
not marionettes
deaf to music
mute to injury.

You will know us
     we hold justice
     in high regard
     we
     write the books
     make the murals
     and the music.
Watch for us.            

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