Paper Bag

by Ashley Mintz

i see you with that brown paper bag, 
wrinkling underneath your heavy hand
the contents inside stand for something more than you care to understand
more than a good night drinkin'
it's hard to think when you're hungover, 
over-looking the meaning 
of why there are liquor stores up and down the neighborhoods you frequent
but don't think this is by accident, coincidence or merely for your convenience
there are liquor stores up and down black neighborhoods for a reason
maybe to make sure you stay too drunk to put up a fight... 
should you ever decide you might want to change your life
they up the quantity but keep down the price, 
perhaps to keep you down alike
the excess accessibility means less stability
it means higher chances of drunk driving and violence 
that will leave you in and out of jail or forever silenced
it means humiliation, people laugh as they pass 
as you converse with yourself and curse at yourself 
it seems to bring out the worst in yourself
and the men who give you money as you stand open hand on the side of the street
they're driving BMW's and SUV's, giving you nickels dimes to help get you off the streets
but not like you think
more like off the streets and into the doorway of some abandoned building where you can 
drink yourself to sleep
it's hard to think it could get that deep
it's hard to make sense of it when their dollars and cents... 
always seem to add up to exact change for a bottle, and 
maybe some mouth rinse to swallow to hide the evidence and 
convince future passersby that you'll use their donations 
to better your situation
but they don't need convincing, they won't listen
because whether they realize it or not 
they are part of the system
but perhaps you assist them 
because the chains they placed around the hands 
and feet of those before us
only get tighter the longer you remain not a fighter, 
but a victim
still you'd rather just exist than resist some
and another chance to make a difference has been missed 
but what's at risk is the burden heavier, 
ready when the next generation of kids come
but there are enough broken souls, old men 
who have lost hope wandering the streets
and not enough young black men filling up seats in universities 
or the mouths of their families; they become like ghosts
following in the footsteps of the fathers 
they may or may not know
and i know certain circumstances have been handed down 
but you could use those same hands 
that you hold out for a hand out
to help build a future where we can look ahead instead of down
because we can't afford to be any emptier now
if feels like we are moving ahead too slow 
or making our way back to our past too fast 
and either way the aftermath leaves us still, without
and the route we choose to take every second, minute, and counting 
is molding what our future holds
and paper bags eventually give way to the weight 
of the bottles you keep downing
after one use the holes and tears begin to show, 
so there's no more use for those
I need someone I can look to proudly, 
but right now we are just strangers
me walking in the crowd passing the dirt 
and tar shrouding your bound feet
and i see you with that brown paper bag 
when i'm walking down our street
i see you, but dad 
do you see me?

Paper Bag by Ashley Mintz

© Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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