Pull yourselves up from the bootstraps
we tell them, ignoring the obvious fact
that they do not have boots, that their feet
are caked with dirt and cut through with glass
from going around unable to afford any shoes.
Use your bootstraps to pull yourselves up
like our great-grandfathers did, we say, patting ourselves
gently on the backs, thinking fondly of their legacies.
The white, American farmers who were given money
to buy land and got lucky enough their slaves knew how
to make the crops survive the frosts and droughts
and luckier still their children did not all die of flu.
Hard work, we suggest, as the means to an end, when
a starving person knocks at the door–ashamed–and asks for food.
You should be fine, just walk it off, the doctor tells an old man
before sending him home. And that night he dies in his bed,from complications of a stroke the doctor didn’t see.