Exclusion is a funny word

Austin street art. Artist unknown. Photo by Nermin Judson

Exclusion is a funny word,
it rattles through my tongue,
sweeping like a tidal wave,
it is a feeling we have all known
swinging sweetly on tree branches from a young age like Scout Finch
except in an urban jungle,
we have known it cross through our minds like those long needles
that pin down giant butterflies in stuffy museums
when it is spoken in quiet, rushed voices by our parents on the other side of the bathroom door, and everyone was once just a voyeur on America’s coattails,
just an observer of democracy from the top of the stairs,
and we were children then, driving past the Eastside
on the towering concrete interstate,
staring up at the little bits of light showing through the gaps in the highway above

exclusion is the distance between a child holding an empty ice cream cone and the melting pool of ice cream on the ground measured in lumens,
the unbalanced coexistence between walls and sunshine
like the flowers that bloom through the cracks in the concrete,

and exclusion is the lifeblood of hatred, the end-all-be-all of corruption,
sagging through the window like raindrops in heavy wind,
and there is yet beauty in sorrowful songs that sear into my brain from the records
of my youthful days spent sifting through record stores and doing homework with Otis Redding, there is a wonderful bitterness in the way the light streams through the live oaks on the rundown streets on weekday evenings that makes me cry,
and there is tenderness in the eyes of the homeless man on the highway,
but there is suffering in his feet


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