Bread and Circuses: A Poem for America
It hit me, this profound sadness,
during the high school “Spirit Assembly”:
the drums ringing forth,
evoking the grandeur of Rome,
the banners, the anthem, the Pledge.
And after —
the balloons that littered the halls,
the torn streamers and ripped signage.
The dance that night,
bright lights and deafening music,
expensive dresses, glittering heels.
Lunch the next day,
three bottles of Portuguese red wine,
two platters of calamari,
passion fruit mousse.
Bread and circuses,
four hundred eighty dollars of emptiness.
TV ads, fur coats and expensive watches,
American politics. Americana. Your
boasting voice blaring in my ears.
All these things while someone starves
worlds away, and another freezes
in an alleyway just outside,
and the world cries and begins to die.
My sadness grew and grew,
but there was nothing I could do.
And I knew from listening
that it meant next to nothing to you.
I wrote this poem quite a long time ago, in high school. This is pretty much it as I wrote it, except with a few minor changes that I think improve the meaning.
I never counted myself a poet back then, and only recently have I begun to write a lot of poetry. But I thought that I would get this poem off my heart today. If you enjoy the message behind it, you might want to check out my poem and reflection “Praise to the Brave.”
Some might wonder who the “you” in the poem is. I won’t spoil this one, but it’s probably no one you know. And I’m certainly not directing the poem at readers, although I’m sure some might read it that way. I mean for this poem to address a very large message in a very self-contained way.
Please tell me in the comments what you thought about “Bread and Circuses”!
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“Song for the Gallows,” a very short poem about crime and punishment.
“Like Butterflies,” a short philosophical poem exploring life and human mortality through a universal perspective.
“O Drums,” a lyrical poem in the form of a mantra featuring repetition and a message about love, self-reliance, and resilience.
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