The Levittowns

Listen to a reading of “The Levittowns” (reading by Tim Foley):

They sent the soldiers back after a crazy, stupid world war
which was the sequel to another crazy, stupid world war,
sent them back with demons in their minds,
with twisted corpses in their minds,
corpses missing their parts,
corpses with their inside parts on the outside,
corpses still screaming because they did not yet know that they were corpses,
corpses who just moments before were not corpses but trusted friends.

Sent them back from the war to live in the Levittowns,
giant suburban sprawls with clean white picket fences for clean white families with clean white faces,
tidy little houses with enough space in between that a man can live like a man,
can drink enough to temporarily bury the corpses in his mind,
can beat his children and rape his wife without troubling the neighbors,
can comfortably scream PTSD screams from the depths of hell at night,
can do some home repairs and work on his car on the weekend.

The suburbs still scream those screams of unburied war corpses,
screams handed down from generation to generation by cruel hands and serrated words,
cruel hands and serrated words doled out behind closed doors in private castles separated by fences and lawns,
lawns of worthiness,
lawns of salvation,
lawns that if green enough will erase the sins of our fathers,
lawns watered with the tears of warehoused wives,
lawns watered with the sweat of the working poor,
lawns watered with the blood of indigenous gods,
overlooked by windows with snarling faces peeking through blinds
or mothers with medicated eyes spoon-feeding grains into the bellies of crying children.

After the war they went to the suburbs and pretended everything was fine
(it wasn’t fine)
and spent the 1950s pouring emotional concrete over their pain and savaging their children and pretending everything was fine
(it wasn’t fine),
and now those houses are all haunted by ghosts pretending everything is fine
(it isn’t fine)
and haunted by living people pretending everything is fine
(it isn’t fine)
as we fill our oceans and our blood with plastic
and laugh plastic laughs
at screens full of plastic people
pretending everything is fine
(it isn’t fine),
charging toward armageddon carrying the anguish of our grandfathers on our shoulders
the way they carried their fallen friends on the battlefield on their shoulders
before they realized that their friends were corpses
and fell to the ground
and cried out for their mothers,
and then got up,
and then went home,
and never breathed a word about it
to anyone.

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