In the City

The city, where the liars are in charge
And all the criminals are still at large:
The just have been imprisoned, brought to heel:
Grateful as dogs, oh, how we rush to kneel
For the littlest favor, the smallest crumbs we get
From its machine, the most submissive pets
The city’s Boss (and pals) could ever wish for.
As thanks, we’re kicked, and then must beg for more.

Drug busts are trumpeted, but dealers don’t care,
They know what’s needed to mollify despair.
The killers amble free, festooned with guns,
While we, disarmed, pray God this cracked-out one
Won’t turn in passing and, crazed, cut our throats,
As the Boss and his pals laugh and play on their boats,
Wasting our taxes barring smokers from bars,
Snarling streets with bike lanes, banning foie gras.
“More Taxes!” “For schools!” But how they rise and rise!
And their grads are only qualified for: “Want fries?”

A tenth of each dollar in sales tax alone!
“We’ll tithe you on your coffee, before you leave home.”
City, county, state, then the Feds take more,
Yet somehow they can’t quite take care of the poor.
The “Federal Reserve” prints billions from nowhere—
Yeah, you read that right, our money’s from thin air—
Then gives it not to us, but instead to big banks,
Who humbly accept, and graciously say thanks
For their Swiss watches, Porsches, Hamptons estates,
While all the while, the price we pay inflates.

And what about the writers, their satire, their rage?
The scathing-hot critiques they’ve seared through the page?
They’re whoring after tenure in universities—
Stuffed full with laurels, laden with degrees,
Lordly in their towers, whose coffers groan,
Bursting with boffo bucks in student loans,
Expounding “self-expression,” “creative release.”
—so laudably progressive, but no one reads.

Something’s rotten in Denmark, something’s very wrong—
Exactly what, we all will learn, before too long.



Overheard at the Post Office Counter

The doughty Carib lady seemed perplexed.
She’d queued, but were the workers on the lam?
“Ees anybody there?” She called out, vexed.
From far back came a practiced voice: “No, Ma’am.”



Adam Wasem is a writer living in Chicago.

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16 Responses

  1. Cheryl Corey

    “In The City” – quite scathing, but oh so true. “And their grads are only qualified for: “Want fries?” and “They’re whoring after tenure in universities—” are my two favorite lines. Too many of our major cities are towers of Babel.

  2. Adam Wasem

    I’m glad you liked them. Those were two of the most fun and satisfying ones to write also. And living in a big city, I thought it high time, in light of recent American political developments, for someone to put out a status report on them.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    ‘In the City’ begs to be read aloud with attitude… for me, it has a rap feel about it. It certainly captures the essence of the day and I love the so-true lines “Grateful as dogs, oh, how we rush to kneel/For the littlest favor, the smallest crumbs we get/From its machine, the most submissive pets…” Thank you, Adam.

    • Adam Wasem

      Very astute of you to notice that. I cut my teeth in my twenties at Chicago open-mic poetry readings, so no doubt a little of that “performance poetry” aspect has rubbed off on my style. I like to think I learned to incorporate the directness and immediacy while avoiding the dreadful self-absorption, the abysmal ignorance of rhyme and meter, and the juvenile rage and rank naivete, but that’s probably for others to judge.

      I’m glad you enjoyed those lines, also, as I intended the poem not just to be a rant, but a portrait of all sorts of government-created societal ills and the degrading effect they have on our urban centers and all who live there. When the social contract breaks down, everyone involved eventually becomes tainted in some way.

      • Mike Bryant

        Hey Adam, why don’t you send Evan a recording of you reading this dynamite poem?
        I’m sure it would add much to hear exactly what you heard as you wrote it. It would be a real treat for everyone.

      • Adam Wasem

        I like that idea, Mike, and thanks for the kudos. Sometimes a poet’s job is just to throw a bomb. If Evan’s ok with it, I may just do it when I have some time. We’re packing up and fixing up for a move, and there’s a lot to pack and fix and arrange, so time right now is at a premium. And I haven’t really “performed” for quite a while, so I’d have to practice some first. But thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Norma Pain

    I really liked ‘In the City’ Adam, referencing our taxes in North America going up and up, like the Tower of Babel. I also equate all of the man-made vaccines to the Tower of Babel. They seem to be causing an awful lot of illness, death and misery worldwide. Whatever happened to our belief in our God-given immune systems. We need a huge wake-up.
    ‘Overheard at the Post Office’ is very funny… a snippet of life these days.

    • Adam Wasem

      Thanks, Norma. A writer’s first job is to entertain, and I’m glad I succeeded with you. And I wholeheartedly agree with you about the vaccines, that in the COVID scam we have just witnessed–and are still witnessing–possibly the greatest medical crime of all time. The problem is with a crime of this subtlety, with such a vast army of shills, liars, propagandists, and useful idiots arrayed against the truth, how can you explicate it in an unassailably clear and easily digestible way for the low-information masses. It’s easy and emotionally satisfying to preach to the choir here, of course, but you aren’t going to get many converts out of it. Because, as I alluded to in the poem, getting through to the masses is the only way we’re going to get poetry–and serious writing in general–out of the academic ghetto it’s consigned itself to, and back into the cultural conversation.

      And I’m glad you enjoyed “Overheard.” Sometimes a perfect little jewel just drops into your lap, which it would be criminal not to write down.

  5. Roy E. Peterson

    Adam, I cannot get over the imagery and truths embedded in your poem, “In the City.” That is an impressive tour de force! You brilliantly covered so many of the present-day social sins. The allusion to being qualified to only work at a fast-food joint after education with “Want fries?” fits perfectly!

    • Adam Wasem

      Thank you, Roy, for your high praise. I was on a rant and on a roll. And our problems today seem so horrible that only the most ferocious of language and imagery felt sufficient to dramatize it. One of the many derelictions of contemporary poetry is that of simple reportage. I can only adduce as explanation poetry’s academization, as I angrily lamented in the poem. When poets’ only source of income is the academic sinecure, eventually their production will become entirely academic. The more poets retreat from their duty to address their social milieu, the more poetry slides into irrelevance, and the more the civilization suffers, especially with the almost total corruption of contemporary journalism. Like it or not, we can’t depend on any journalistic entity on the planet to report anything resembling the truth, we’re going to have to do it all on our own.

      I do have to confess the “want fries” quip I think I stole from a Robin Williams routine from the 80s, but it’s been almost 40 years, and the sentiment fits even better today.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    You paint a dismal picture, Adam, so I’m sure afraid you were aiming for realism.

  7. Adam Wasem

    If I have to witness America’s decline and fall, then at least I’m going to try to chronicle the collapse as accurately as I can, for my children if no one else. And frankly, the insanity comes so thick and fast these days, even when you aim for realism, you end up in surrealism.

  8. Shaun C. Duncan

    “In The City” is a magnificent piece, Adam. The rhythm of the language has a strong propulsive quality which conveys the sense of rising anger. It’s a wonderful example of my favourite kind of poetry.

    I read this morning that Chicago has been named the second most liveable city in the world, whatever that means. As someone who lived for many years in Melbourne, which often tops these sort of lists, you have my sympathy.

    “Overheard at the Post Office Counter” is a delightful miniature and a perfect palate-cleanser.

    • Adam Wasem

      I’m glad you caught that. When writing a diatribe, I find the longer the sentence the more the rhetoric accumulates force. Liberal use of enjambment doesn’t hurt either. And there’s nothing like a couplet, I’ve found, for heightening irony and illustrating absurdity. And yes, I did intend “Overheard” as a light aperitif after such a heavy meal. I’m glad you enjoyed them both.

      Regarding absurdity, it sounds like whatever publication just named Chicago the second most livable city in the world has a keen taste for it. But what would the masses do without the idiot “lifestyle” editors shoveling such pap into their brains? In their minds, of course, they’re performing a noble service by giving such a laughable disaster of a city a reputation boost. What’s most grimly amusing is that the only ones who’ll be taken in by such drivel are exactly the sort of useful idiot victims cities like Chicago need to cannibalize in order to keep functioning. The million-dollar question is, do the editors and writers at such places really believe their own BS, or are they under some kind of orders, or is it some combination of both? I.e., their owners and editors-in-chief, knowing their gullibility and leftish predilections, know exactly what direction to nudge them in to get the articles they want. I tend to lean toward the latter.

      • Shaun C. Duncan

        I don’t use couplets much, because I worry about getting too sing-songy but I always appreciate them when I see them used well and I often forget how subtle they can be when left open. I agree about the use of enjambment too, but it can quickly become exhausting if used artlessly. Your lines all have satisfying conclusions and solid rhymes, even if the sentence runs on to the next, which creates a sense of urgency without sacrificing the integrity of the form. I feel like you can get away with stronger language and more heated rhetoric if the form is rock-solid.

        I have no idea what kind of agenda is behind these lists of “best cities”, but the one I read this morning placed Medellin at number 3 and Glasgow at 4. I’d expected them to reward municipalities that went hard on covid, but it sounds more like drugs and violence are the hip new thing.

      • Adam Wasem

        “Hey, readers, the Covid there won’t kill you, but your neighbors sure will.” Too absurd. Medellin at number 3? Where did you find this list? High Times? The Babylon Bee? Good Lord, the world really has gone mad.

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