downtown: where corporate vultures reign supreme

door swings ‘round and ‘round in an endless spin of corporate ritual
its glass body enclosed by precious brass casing
lavishly polished by dark-skinned, beige-shirted men once a week
tinted glass … bolstered by assorted knobs, alarms
and red-suited screws … who patrol night and day
and pass constant vigil over this:
your precious sliver of concrete and glass
ste[a]l evidence that the “brightest and the best”
do not always reign supreme
but rather right-sized, streamlined corporate vultures
who prey in rocky centers such as yours
because these ‘fell[er]s are serious
because these ‘fell[er]s mean business
because these ‘fell[er]s tenaciously retain for [d]ere life
the power to not balance budgets
but to so graciously maintain their status profit quo
with a cutthroat slash of a paycheck pen/knife
and they bow to their dead presidents
and depart with meals on wheels
leaving the rest of us searching for true light
as we perch on the brink of the end of the world

* * *

tailored suits and linen jackets adorn the marbled floors
turning ‘stiles and riding glass- and brass- and camera-enclosed lifts
to their beloved promised land
a rock in a hard place to center
panty hosed legs
manicured nails
collagen-enhanced lips
three-inch hair
and polished manners
adorn those ghostly faces cast into stony plastic smiles
souls long decayed and innermost goodness long discarded
for the sole chance to dine off the daily bread of others
and the meal? … a putrid green mold
carried in dingy gray sacks … every hour on the hour
through said ‘stiles and lifts onto armored vessels
(reminiscent of the dungeons where Mumia,
Oscar and others still pray for revo … and resolution)

* * *

other ‘stiles and lifts, however, appear quite different
these are stainless yet filthy steel
rarely polished or waxed or monitored
catering only to the millions who surpass them every day
laborers who submit odious offerings to lord MTA
parsimonious tokens of lost dreams and their stature in the world
workers … who saunter down greasy steps onto dingy platforms
and who wait in blood curdling heat and heart wrenching cold
for the sole privilege of being packed liked sardines
(or Jews under Hitler’s Germany) onto metal boxcars
hoping for the luxury of a seat or a spot nearest the door
(so desperate they sometimes fall to pieces … right there underground
eating away at the very fabric from which they are made … that is, each other)
eventually … sometimes hours later … they fight their way out
and race up smoother, cleaner steps … into brightly lit corridors
so hungry for air and life and their daily bread
they look up … as if in prayer … at the nourishing sun
seemingly brighter … though in reality lost in shadows
cast by your precious sliver of concrete and glass
and quickly they walk
racing to reach your beloved promised land
a rock in a hard place to center
and to turn those other ‘stiles and to ride those other lifts
owned by a fortunate few feasting from the daily bread of fasting others
ste[a]l evidence that the “brightest and the best”
do not always reign supreme

© 1995 by Marina Ortiz

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