The People's Poet Tony Robles–SF Art commission award winning Author of cool don't live here no more and fingerprints of a hunger strike

The Bill


The bill is due. It has been due. It is due now and there is no way to determine when the bill will be paid or the debt forgiven. But we all know, in the crevices of our bones, in the shell of our consciousness, that the bill is due and can only be paid if we are willing to give up our lives. In giving up our lives we must be willing to kill. We must be willing to kill the notions and assumptions that have been slashed and seared into our skin. We must shun them as they have shunned us. We must kill the thing that has dimmed the light in us. The expense—the debt—has accrued. How to measure the sadness, the desolate moments, the massacres of body, soul and mind? The bill has come due. The price has been paid but the bill is due. The bill, the cost, the obligation, is in us in the tattered pieces of a torn quilt; the quilt that is us, the quilt that provided warmth, the quilt that was sewn and torn and mended—created by hands of every color.


The bill or, the price, has been calculated, miscalculated, misrepresented yet it cannot be distorted, for the truth surely comes to light. Ignorance is no longer an excuse to buttress our delusions. The voices of the past have warned us—voices from this country’s inception—and, more importantly, from before its inception—pre-theft, massacres and genocide– when the spiritual guardians of this land took under consideration the spiritual context of the earthly, respecting what was given, what was breathed into existence. The inner contempt for what is good has turned outward and again inward. The debt came   with the ships whose cargo was swallowed by the sea, the DNA, the root of who we are—drowned, submerged into what would become myth, legend and finally, truth that could not be ignored as the blood cried out from under the waters that moved across our bodies.


The bill is due, it can no longer be subdued by subtext that omit us and by that omission, omitting the whole that is us, the ones who were brought to the continent of land and mind, spirit and dream and those who came of their own volition, whose circumstances are as varied as he amoebas below, the stars in the sky. Our poets, prophets, scholars, thinkers—and those who moved them to speak truth—are appendages and witnesses to all that have been apprehended and held hostage. The desecration of our lands came at the expense of the desecration of our minds. Looking out into the streets—day or night—we see the outcomes, the sum of the choices that have been made or, more accurately, imposed upon us–the slumping silence, the mangled limbs, the swollen feet, the eyes that have seen too much death. Death, the thousand deaths, the overt death, the undetected death, the death in the smile of a palm, the death in the face of indifference; death cannibalizing death, feeding on itself.


The writer Oscar Penaranda spoke of this in a story called, “The Price”—a tale of two brothers fighting over the fate of a piece of family land. One brother sees the land as useless, the other sees it as what it is—land–something that should be honored for what it is—something that exists. What to do with it? Sell it, one brother says—it is craggy, not being used for anything. We can sell, the other brother says, but at what price? Are you willing to pay the price, to live with the price? In the middle is the young nephew who must weigh both points of view—and pledge his loyalty to one. We are left in the end to ponder the notion of cost and price and the ramifications of each as the line that divides both is not as clear cut as one would believe.


Who is to pay the price for the collective human cost, or, if you will, the infrastructure of skin, bone, breath, spirit–that has been fractured? T o whom do we point the finger of accountability in search of an answer, or at the very least, a clue? Our interconnectedness has been impounded in the sanctum of false security, social media disguising itself as true community, religion disguising itself as God, Creator– hate sauntering the runways disguised as love; meanwhile the slaughterhouses stay hidden from view—severing connections with the preciseness of a guillotine—where spirit, consciousness, ethics—fall to the floor in the offal of what might have been. The bill is due.