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thankless, a poem by Tony Brewer

thankless by Tony Brewer

I ignore every spare-change addict I encounter

except when I have post-restaurant doggy bag.

I hope they like Thai food but expect them

to throw it away – it’s not money

and I have no booze or drugs or sex in my pocket

for them tonight. I don’t discriminate.

I hate money, the wall between who we are

and what we want. Some people only know

how to make bricks – be mortar.

Mental illness reduced to cardboard sign

like politics squeezed onto bumper stickers.

It works but then the light turns green.

There is nothing to be taught

in that moment of potential exchange.

Nothing gained or saved or prolonged

except a great societal guilt trip

– that we measure our level of civility

according to how we treat our least

– that these unfortunates might be damaged

or lost or running – that desperation

has no home or destination but a look.

Wrinkled ones and coins passed hand to Styrofoam

act as mile markers on this long sad trip

for we give alms not to do good

but to feel good ourselves. 

Bio: Tony Brewer is a poet, spoken word performer, sound effects artist, typesetter, and event producer from Bloomington, Indiana. He chairs the Writers Guild at Bloomington and is executive director of the Spoken Word Stage at the 4th Street Arts Festival. He has 3 books: The Great American Scapegoat, Little Glove in a Big Hand (Plan B Press), and Hot Type Cold Read (Chatter House Press).