The Fountain Pen

Numbers stick to us like magnets
on a fridge. Even as we lay in pieces
in a pile of rusted cars and melted
plastic baby dolls. The scavengers
circle over head fighting for minor
clauses to be squeezed into the blind
corners of mandatory documents.
They dip their sharp beaks into the
puncture wounds and twist them
hoping the pain will make us more
likely to give them what they want,
and for most of us they are right.

We like to look around at all our
fancy amenities like our preschools,
baseball fields, and doctor’s offices and
they make it seem like the bear wants to
take care of us rather than pull us
violently from the stream. This is still
the stream though it will always be the
stream. To tell children anything else is
dishonest, even with the intent to calm
their fears about the monsters with red eyes
and gray fur.

When they grow up they don’t even
know what to look for anymore. Eventually
they’ll make their way to an old office with
warped walls covered in puke green paint,
and a scavenger dressed like their father
will be waiting there with an ancient looking
fountain pen.
It will tell them to stab it into their thumb
and write their name down, and they will
pour bourbon into a small glass while
assuring them this is the only way to get
what they want.

We pick up dented cans in the gutters and
give them to people behind glass for a few
nickles and look up at the tall buildings we
thought we would have access to. It’s dark
out and the windows are all full of red eyes
looking out over everything like they own it and
they do. Even the few coins in your pocket belong
to them, the cans we gave up to get them belong to them,
and now we belong to them; forgetting what
we were like before we signed.

Somewhere though, there is someone getting
fed up with being looked down on in the rain.
He runs up to people and shakes them by their
shoulders begging them to remember who they
were before they gave it all away. Most of the time
it ends with him getting punched in the jaw, but
other times something old steps out of the space
at the center of their pupils. Someday there will
be enough of them to take a stand against
what put them down. The fountain pen will be
offered again, but this time it’s cutting straight
through all the red.

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