The presidential scholar
drips delicate fingers down his chin.
With smooth, white, Ivy-infused
certitude, he promises.
Our institutions are strong.
We will be just fine.
Let’s hope, the anchor replies,
profusely praising his brilliance,
deftly slipping into the day’s
Regulatory grand larceny.
Leave the scholar to his analysis.
Leave the anchor to her hopes.
But leave no institution
inviolate or immune
To ignore the pain,
Justify the plunder,
Prey on the vulnerable,
Assault the truth,
Escape the will of the People.
The people for whom things have
The strong-backed mother on her second job,
pushing a wheelchair,
feeding a blank, wordless patient,
trading recipes with her sister in clipped Creole.
The tattooed millwright in the Harley T-shirt,
Copenhagen tin in his back pocket,
drawing tools out of his sagging leather belt
like a sheriff in a gunfight.
The firefighter, stumbling in exhaustion,
pulling a young body out of a
charred row home,
ducking cameras, questions,
The cabbie in the blue turban,
listening to NPR,
his badge listing everything
save his advanced degree,
flipping the bird at the Uber driver.
tough and tender,
taking her tough
to the picket line.
kissing his son goodbye,
to rush to school,
passing a monument of balloons,
teddy bears, flowers, a cardboard sign,
who know their fallibility,
whose hopes are conditioned by their sacrifices.
whose dreams are resilient,
annealed in the terrible blue flame,
fanned in the whipping wind,
“Medicare for All” Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Backbone Campaign.
Len Shindel began working at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant in 1973, where he was a union activist and elected representative in local unions of the United Steelworkers, frequently publishing newsletters about issues confronting his co-workers. His nonfiction and poetry have been published in the “Other Voices” section of the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Pearl, The Mill Hunk Herald, Pig Iron, Labor Notes and other publications. After leaving Sparrows Point in 2002, Shindel, a father of three and grandfather of seven, began working as a communication specialist for an international union based in Washington, D.C. The International Labor Communications Association frequently rewarded his writing. He retired in 2016. Today he and his wife, Maxine, live in Garrett County where he enjoys writing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, hiking, fly-fishing and fighting for a more peaceful, sustainable and safe world for his grandchildren and their generation