“When the Crows Come” (#YESon3MA Slam Poem)

When the Crows Come
they will look like doves. They—all gold-toed and slick coated—
will come to us—an offering a promise of new growth,
and we, having not seen the shadow of G-d in years
around here, will welcome them
—all unlocked arms, praying palms and bowed fingers—
waiting to embrace the first sign of life that comes to us. Can we know what it is to have beaks peck
into our chests? The crow
is a scavenging animal. When it feeds,
it scours for the closest things to wounded flesh,
an injured hare, some dying grain, a small dog,
And I’ve seen those toes before —watched them sneak into the stomachs of
hungry folk and tear out their tongues from the inside.
I’ve watched them flock to food from generous hands
only to peck at their palms once they’re done.
At Pennsylvania’s, Rhode Island’s,
Connecticut’s and Ohio’s. I’ve seen them squeeze poor pockets
for every crumb and coin. See, when the crows come,
it will not look like a bird. It’ll look like a slot bar
in a Mohegan Sun, like Wynn Hotels.
Atlantic City—out 8,000 jobs in a year. Fact: When asked if he’d want a casino in
his hometown, CEO of American Gaming said,
“N.I.M.B.Y.—Not In My Backyard.” In other states,
just five years after arrival they’ve more than doubled rates of assault,
robbery and rape, and though the gaming industry knows this,
they have spent nearly ten million dollars to wear the mask “job creator”
when in fact casinos kill on average one job per slot machine. Why they come
is for addicts. Over half a casino’s revenue comes from
problem gambling, so slots are scientifically designed to get
locals addicted. This—though more than a fifth of all addicts
will attempt suicide. The casino
is a scavenging animal. When it feeds,
it scours for the closest things to wounded flesh
—a low-income home, an immigrant community, a job-needing place. It will fly state to state
attempting to exploit “desperate” into addicted. This glutton,
this murder, this law-abiding thief,
prey upon the poor perceives us as road kill,
as sitting meat waiting to be made into a meal. It has mistaken hurt for dead
—bloody for a carcass. Yes, we have been wounded.
Yes, we’ve been oppressed -—gentrified and marginalized,
but we have bled enough to know a predator when we smell one,
and they have feasted on our families for the last time! Here,
they will not find our hands giving but clenched fists
remembering too well the red on their wings. We will not suck their lies—a vacuum
but warn our people of the blood they bring. We will make sirens from our tongues
—spread truth like an alarm. Here,
in the earth of our state, in this state of our homes,
we will scream with the strength of six million stomachs
that they have clawed at our communities for the last time! When the casinos come,
when this predator comes, we will stand
—all stiffened arms, strengthened palms and firm fingers—
ready to scare whatever crow may come to us. We will be right here
ready in this field,
nailed into this ground as we have always been.

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