Us vs Them

My childhood was not an anxious place,
though I lay
              in my bed, awake, thumbing
my sheets like beads, wondering when the sun
              would Russian astronauts be OK,
they in their Sputniks, with their space dogs,
              they that chased their own tail
around this water bowl
              we call Earth. When I was a child,

in elementary school
             we practiced a type of
called Duck and Cover,
where we huddled
                             under desks in case of a nuclear
by the Russians. They were communists,
              had the bomb, and were evil

Reagan told us
from the small grave
                 of a TV screen.

In the sixties, Nixon said the same
              thing, and the Panthers
              countered with "the Viet Cong never
called me nigger" With their picks
like unclenched fists,
              with their afros like the plume of an atom bomb,
they scared white and black folks alike. It is 2014,

and America is still scared of
                            the Russians and black people;
              now the American Dream is to be debt free,
which I am not, nor may ever be, but at least
              I'm no longer afraid of the Russians.

David Tomas Martinez, "Us vs Them." Copyright © 2015 by David Tomas Martinez. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (PoetryNow, 2015)
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