The High and Mighty, poem by Douglas A Holiday

          for my grandparents

    How high up in this building
    at 478 Central Park West
    did the two of you live,
    looking down onto the park
    and the pedestrians each day,
    imagining yourselves not part of the lower classes,
    not part of the poorer race crammed into hovels on the Eastside, not peasants
    even though you sought out welfare and handouts

    Could you see the hospital from your perch
    even though the windows might have been
    fogged over from winter’s frost, could you
    see Metropolitan Hospital’s façade
    did you know that she would be heading that
    way in January

    You knew about that daughter of yours, my mother,
    And what she was doing just about every two years,
    didn’t you,
    and you wouldn’t put a stop to it,
    you refused to help your grandchildren,
    but you helped to condone the abuse by denying your own kin,
    claiming to be too weak to help,
    but strong enough for welfare and handouts
    while you resided in high-rises on Central Park West,
    looking down on the lower classes and helpless infants

    You knew she was abusing me,
    leaving me to strangers to fend for myself
    for nearly eight months while you and grandpa
    sat high up over Central Park West,
    could maybe even see her building
    and the two of you knew what she was doing,
    what she had done and you condoned that,
    lying to the welfare people
    that you did not approve but you did nothing after
    the first one was born,
    or the second one was born,
    or the third one was born
    or the fourth one was born
    or the fifth one, me, was born
    or the sixth one was born
    or even if others were born
    after she took up with the superintendent
    over at 254 on West 112th street
    after giving my father two sons,
    sons that he would deny paternity for,
    so that his parents, my other grandparents,
    would not know about us and would
    not have to come down from their high-rise
    buildings and claim us

    Were the two of you grandparents
    to the other daughter’s children,
    my cousins, if she had any, did you
    pick and choose, selecting which daughter
    to be kind to and which to deny,
    did you tell the other daughter not to
    give you grandchildren because
    you claimed to be too tired and too weak from
    watching and condoning what the
    older one, my mother, was doing
    and there was nothing either of you
    could or would or felt you should do
    for any of your grandchildren
    did you pick and choose, like the high and mighty do;
    later, did the other daughter give you grandchildren
    to help feed and clothe
    and buy presents for and love
    and to walk hand in hand
    around Central Park West with
    while six other grandchildren
    were given away to strangers
    to be adopted and abused

    So, I have no parents and no grandparents
    because everyone wanted welfare from the
    state but could care less about the welfare
    of infants and sons and grandchildren,
    wanting to feel high and mighty over the others
    pacing back and forth along Central Park West

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Marjorie Maddox