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The Brass Ring

Privilege weaves blinders so soft and
light they are almost not there. I could
peek, but guilt is the price of seeing.


No matter that I started with a leg up,
a few rungs up the ladder. Life isn’t
fair or so my parents told me.


I never knew the brass ring was a
handout swung within my reach. An
easy stretch, but I still had to grab it


while others, exhausted from their long
climbs, stretched and fell short, the ring
swinging just above their fingertips.


It’s not that I didn’t work hard but that
others had to work harder. So how
would guilt serve me? Or anyone?


If I don’t grab the ring, an even
more privileged boy will have it
placed right in his palm. He will think


he deserves it. That he had to make
the effort to close his fingers around
He finds his ring is gold, not brass


like the one I reached. He thinks we
all had a shot at gold rings, that he was
just smarter to reach for the right one.


He will rule in courtrooms, boardrooms,
halls of Congress. I just ask that he
know the price of bread. Settle for


just two houses. Respect the maid
who vacuums for him. Seek to start her
children on the same rung as his own.


It Was Always So

Everyone claims empowerment, but
those who’ve always had power,
hard, indelible as bones.


It was always so. Power marching
the lines, relentless soldiers, shoulders
wide as pylons. Buzzing in the air.


It was always so. The power of a few
to rule the many, to set workers
squabbling like chickens on feed.


It was always so. The ravenous want
more, never know enough, run
from hunger they’ve never known.


It was always so, before Warhol’s dots of
Marilyn went digital. Before 15 minutes
of fame were ten. Before alternative facts


bore alternate truths—before power of hate
bested power of reason, before the bombastic
flattened the earth and said it was so.


It was always so.


Nina Douglas writes poems and short stories, many of them inspired by the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Olympia with her partner, Roy, and an Australian Shepherd.

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