ripping the military recruitment brochure
out of a young woman’s hands
i couldn’t tell if it was army, navy, air force or marines
to tell the truth they all look the same to me
especially when in uniform
the soldiers on the brochure probably aren’t even soldiers
they look more like fashion models playing dress-up
the point is, i got it away from her
this young black-latina mix on the R train
with golden brown curls and cherry red lips
she was startled at first, she looked like she wanted to hit me
but then i said, give me a minute
you got about ten seconds, asshole, she said
i shook the brochure at her
i said, you don’t really want to do this
she said, but i don’t have any other choice
i said, we all have choices
she said, spoken like a white man in america
what am i supposed to do with my life, work the register at mcdonalds?
i said, what about college?
she said, have you seen my high school?
i was practically strip searched before homeroom
so i said, in the military, you have a twenty-five percent chance
of being sexually assaulted…before boot camp
she laughed, she said, you really don’t know shit
about women in america do you, uncle sam?
i said, i know that women have a higher chance of getting PTSDs
she said, come visit my neighborhood some time
well, i said, it’s not worth it
taking a bullet for some oligarch in a mansion
she said, the systems already stacked against me
she said, look around they’ve already won
guys like you are just the last to catch on, professor
i said, they’ll treat you like a slave
oh man, she said, i don’t even know what to say to that shit
other than give me back my brochure
i said, you’ll be just another automaton in khakis
she said, or just another welfare mom
toting a baby around before i’m twenty
and hated by dudes that look like you
we should work on this together, i said, and find an answer
too little too late, she said
this is the system you set up
it wasn’t me, i said, i’m as much a victim as you are
tom joad you ain’t, she said
snapping her gum and checking her nails
i said, but…..
she just held out her hand
until i took the brochure from behind my back
and gave it to her
she slapped the glossy folder on her knees
and then got up when we reached her stop
wish me luck, uncle sam? she asked.
but i couldn’t
i put my head down and let her go
i looked up only when the train started moving again
into the crowd hustling along on the platform
for nothing but a paycheck and a pipe dream.