Ethics without faith, excuse me,
is the butter and not the bread.
You can’t nourish them all, the dead
pile up at the hospital doors.
And even they are not so numerous
as the mothers come in maternity.
The Provider knows his faults—
love of architecture and repair—
but will not fall into them for long:
he can’t afford the adolescent luxury,
the fellowship of the future
looks greedily toward his family.
The black keys fit black cylinders
in the locks in holes in the night.
He had a skeleton key once,
a rubber arm and complete confidence.
Now, as head of the family, he is
inevitably on the wrong side looking out.
Marvin Bell, “Song of Social Despair” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org
Source: Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000
(Copper Canyon Press, 2000)