Laced Speech II

Marlena Chertock

My stepmom says it looks like the third world here.
There’s barely any bus covers for when it rains,
so many clothing-line hangers in Baltimore and downtown DC.

She’s never been to the third world, but says she’s traveled around.
She’s traveled around.
She’s got money, yeah, she’s never had to go dumpster-diving for food or clothes or pick-me-up drugs, never sold her body or shined shoes,
or looked through furniture catalogs with only dreams. No, she can buy things.

She says, the poor in America aren’t even really poor.
She’s never been poor. Never been to a restaurant unable to pay or to fast-food wanting dinner and breakfast and lunch for the next day.
She’s only seen a sliver of poverty in Maryland and DC,
but to research, to look more, to say they’re humans too, now that’s just too much.
“Ick-sah,” she says, exclaiming disgust.

“Tipshim,” she says. Idiots.
She calls teenagers tipshim as much as the old, so who’s safe to grow and try and fail and experience around her.
Tipsha when I can’t understand her views, tipsha when I disagree, tipsha when I try to show her beauty, try to show her people coming together and fighting for equality.
Tipshim, she calls Occupy DC, don’t they know nothing will change,
they’re so dirty, they don’t bathe, it smells like homeless people and wet dogs.

Honey, you can take everything I say and twist it with your thin-lizard tongue and throw it back in my face, only with a new negative lace.
I don’t want to hear your shit, your eternal pessimism, I don’t want my brother/your son to learn how you see, how you judge everyone on the street but you. They sicken you, but honey, you fucking sicken me
with your nasty Hebrew words about everyone,
unrelenting criticism.
I know you probably got it from my father,
he trained you to judge, to view people as less than you, he makes quick judgments too, maybe you have to do it to survive with him, but you should tell him it’s wrong. Someone has to tell him it’s wrong.
I know you were taught to hate Arabs in the womb,
you’ve been told they’re not human like you since you could put on shoes.

You need to take your shoes off and look in the oil puddle on the street,
see rainbows surround your cheeks,
see how furrowed your face has become,
see how fast your heart beats because you hate everyone,
see that everything you do or say is about other people,
see that you need to stop before your hair turns to worms and your eyes rot because of all you’ve been thinking.

See, I think the new glasses you got, actually hand-me-downs from my dad because you hate American medicine, aren’t doing the trick.
You need laser-eye surgery,
the doctors need to stick their fingernails into your retinas so you can’t fucking see.
They need to laser your eyes so much that when your vision stops being blurry you can only see like a baby, and you’ll become enthralled with the world and then learn of its problems and
have passion to do something that will improve it,
tikkun o’lam, not tipshim, tipsha,
but what can I do to make life better for a few, not for me. The poor in America are poor, they need help, just like the poor everywhere else. Maybe they have a little more than in other countries, but they still can’t eat or sleep in a house, so your comparison is flawed, honey, you need to get some laser-eye surgery.

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