Squalor of the slum

We raised our marble pillars
in honor of our greed,
and lacking guilt,
we gilded them with grace
we turned them into idols
we wrote heroic hymns
to honor us;
the heroes awed in avarice,
us, us foremost us,
knowing well our pillars drew
their sap of strength
from parasitic roots
planted deeply in the squalor
of the slum below.

We praised perfection in ourselves
patted backs
while pretending that
the loaf of bread we shared
meant more than all
our secret lobster gluttony.
We thought that good was gold
until the day
pandemic came,
and as our pillars crumbled
we ceased pretending
as we were forced to beg
for bread-crumbs in the squalor
of the slum below.

Linked to Open Link at dVerse where Lilian hosts.

April 16, 2020

25 responses to “Squalor of the slum

  1. What a powerful write. In the first stanza, I was reminded of our tour in Valparaiso, Chile….where before the Panama Canal, the prosperous sea merchants built amazing homes and buildings and commerce flourished on the low land by the sea….and the farther up the hills you went, the more squalor there was. Now, since the Panama Canal became the literal rite of passage and Valparaiso was abandoned …. those buildings are in disrepair, empty.
    And then in the second stanza my eyes saw us now….with the pandemic being the leveller of all. Equality exists in the way the virus hits one’s body, its attacks on the lungs. But we are also finding now that there is a socioeconomic aspect to this virus just in terms of those who are forced to live closer together, to stay working in the hourly jobs serving others, those people are more and more the clusters. And then the elderly who some would say, “we put away in separate housing” are being hit as well.
    Ah….that’s the mark of a good poet, Bjorn….one who’s writing gets readers to think and connect and move beyond. You have definitely achieved that here.

  2. What she said. You had me at /lobster of gluttony/. Though brief, it is a powerful allegory, and those of us without the Antebellum homes with pillars, silently smile as the mighty are reduced to regular folks.

  3. Magnificent political statement that rings with truth. So much truth. This one is a keeper. After we are beyond covid (yes, I’m optimistic, but thing covid times will be coming more often now) I would love to see an anthology of poems come out of it.

  4. I like the image of pillars sapping strength from parasitic roots and a slum below. When will we get that it’s all one thing, that part effects the other. Maybe now we’ve gotten some idea.

  5. “We praised perfection in ourselves
    patted backs
    while pretending that
    the loaf of bread we shared
    meant more than all
    our secret lobster gluttony.”

    This is incredibly potent, Bjorn! 💝

  6. The pandemic has revealed so much in terms of good/bad/crazy behaviour, heroes and cowards….. and a lot of kindness. And yes, now all pretence is gone. It’s not riches or beauty or our perceived perfections that make a blind bit of difference in this pandemic. (Sorry for the rant 😂)

  7. Masterfully, written. There is so much said in this piece. I pray we have learned something from all that is crumbling around us. The poor have no place to go, no mansion or yachts to try and outrun the pandemic. As the Governor of New York stated “why do the poorest pay the highest price?”

  8. kaykuala

    until the day
    pandemic came,
    and as our pillars crumbled

    A realization which finally brought everyone to their knees not anticipating something like it to happen. Trying times indeed!

    Hank

  9. one can only hope. i think it’s going to have to get worse before it gets better. it’s all on what the banks will do now.

    really like this: “our secret lobster gluttony.” ;p;!

  10. Like others, a powerful piece. Here in Australia we’re starting to talk about the way out, the return to civil liberties and an economy. I (and many) wonder whether there’ll be any change, anything we’ve learned…from our time when we had to ‘beg / for bread-crumbs in the squalor / of the slum below”.

  11. A poem with punch, Björn! The image that grabbed me is:
    ‘knowing well our pillars drew
    their sap of strength
    from parasitic roots
    planted deeply in the squalor
    of the slum below’
    and I love the phrase ‘secret lobster gluttony’.

  12. This virus is truly opening our eyes to the squalor below, right under our feet if we would but look.
    Great pillar of a poem!

  13. Damn this is deep. It’s the modern day Pharaohs living in mansions built on the backs of those they mock living in hovels that are learning harsh lessons now. Brilliant.

  14. This pandemic is turning out to be the great equalizer in more ways than one. If it doesn’t touch you personally or someone you know. It’s touching the pockets of most. Yep, the great equalizer is on the march.
    A good write.

    Pat
    .

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