Selected Poems II


Michael Castro


When police are the threat, who's there 
to protect? When walking in the street 
can get you busted, shot, or beat 
just for being black, talking back, looking 
wrong, or looking strong-how can we 
really be: a viable city, where people
can live in harmony? a free country?

With tanks in the street, who or 
what do they defeat? No good results, 
only bad; fear is what drives us 
mad. And fear, the root of hate,
becomes the Police State. Instead of tear 
gas, hear us! Let's relate, for a
start, human to human, heart to heart.

							-michael castro-2014

*A kwansaba is a form invented by Eugene B. Redmond: seven lines,
seven words per line, no more than seven letters per word


I am more than your idea,
I am tangible, touchable,
a human being like you.
We breathe the same air,
want the same things.
We need to talk.

I am more than my skin tone,
more than the weight I bear,
more than the clothes I wear,
more, even, than my hair,
more than who I sexually prefer,
more than my accented speech,
hear me!-we need to talk.

So get out of your closed mind,
It's claustrophobic in there-thoughts fester 
if they can't expand. Let's meet.
Get out of your car, onto the street.
Let's discover each other 
on common ground.
We need to talk.

I say, take off your armor,
put away your gun,
don't just stare dumbly into your 
smart phone.
Or as they say in the East, Namaste,
& Savati—
the god in you 
honors the god in me.
We need to talk.

						-michael castro- 2015


America loves its guns more than its children.
America hunts down its children in the streets,
mows them down in the schools, massacres them in the malls.

American loves its guns more than its children.
Keeps its gun with it at all times, at all costs.
Would rather wage war than feed or educate poor kids.

Would rather everyone be armed than everyone be smart.
America loves its guns more than its children.
America carries its gun in the store, in the bar, in the church,

anywhere you might be-- make you feel safe?
America loves its guns more than its children.
America buries its children-doesn't tuck them in at night,

doesn't read them stories in bed. Instead,
America, lonely & stressed, sleeps with its gun under its pillow.
America dreams of its guns--& wakes up all wet.

America sells guns to crazy people,
sells weapons of war to madmen militias,
sells guns out of the trunks of its cars.

America loves its guns on tv, in the movies, on the news.
America loves its shooting range, its gun shows, its American Sniper.
America is entertained by its guns. 

America  coarsens young minds with gun culture.
America's love of guns kills love of life.
America blows its own  Dream to bits.
America buys guns & cuts education funding.
America loansharks its college students, "takes them out" with debt—
gives tax breaks to masters of war.

America loves its guns more than its children.
America loves it guns while its infrastructure crumbles.
America loves its guns while its air & water thicken & sicken.

America protects gun owners, neglects the environment.
NRA America says guns don't kill.
30,000 American deaths by guns per year.

America is armed & dangerous.

America makes bigger & better guns-sends its children off to battle.
America is world's biggest arms merchant. 
American guns are big business. Big Business Are US.

America loves its guns while its jobs flee overseas.
America is mowing down its children right & left
in the streets, in the schools, in the malls;

Mowing them down right here today,
mowing down their present, mowing down their future.
America loves its guns more than its children.

				-michael castro-2015


Trolls patrolling the bridges & byways
out of town,
highwaymen, stagecoach robbers, thuggees,
all waylaying travelers, taking their money,
highjacking the strongbox, sometimes
leaving people dead lying on the ground.
Historical images abound 
of thieves & cutthroats on the road.

Here & now, in St. Louis County
the police play that role.
Things are the same, but different.

Trolls of old did not discriminate, 
targeting wealth in motion
whatever its complexion.
They operated outside the law,
as enemies of the State.

Today's trolls in blue
represent the State, 
cruise in white patrolcars,
like the Lone Ranger on his white horse,
heroes in their own mind movie,
the Law at their command.

Unlike historical models,
they discriminate 
profiling, targeting 
not the rich, but
poor people with the wrong shade of skin,
those they are charged 
with protecting & serving.	

Heavily armed
against the citizenry
with citations & bullets,
patrolling neighborhoods
like an occupying army,
backed by military hardware,
inclined by job stress & training
to escalate at hints of weary objection
or resistance,
to shoot to kill if panicked
by real or imagined threat,
they serve City Hall's
racist & classist biases,
& a voracious appetite for cash.

Victims who miss hearings
or can't pay through the nose
are served & protected
with arrest warrants,
do time in modern debtors prisons
for broken taillights,
illegal turns, failure to signal
and the like.
Jailed for lack of money.

Who can serve & protect the family
while in jail?
Who can go to work 
while in jail?
Who can pay the bills
while in jail?

And who can do a damn thing
lying dead in a cell or in the street?

Ask Sandra Bland, Corey Jones, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Mchael Brown.
Ask so many others, tragically & needlessly
cut down. Ask the decades. Ask the historical record.

And so I must insist
to those with dimes on their eyes
instead of Justice's blindfolds,
to those armed with hair trigger tempers & the Law,
to those with weapons of disruption
on pads in their pockets,
& weapons of destruction on their hips,
to governments exploiting & terrorizing
their own citizens,
and to all those who, with comfortable opinions, 
deny full humanity to another,
not knowing they deny their own:


And to those who mask denial
with smug self-approval
with the counter, "All lives matter,"
I say,
Too many unnecessary deaths speak loud.
Too many harassments, citations, arrests; 
Too many fines, too many compound charges;
Too many days & nights in jails;
Too much stress; Too much suffering;
Too many, too many deaths-
drown out & expose that lame retort.

It must be printed in capital letters.
It must be shouted.


Don't fear it, hear it.
Embrace it.
Things must change.

---michael castro--2015