The noted scholars of the institute
Are tasked with framing issues and debate.
Through data and the values they impute
By proxy–or assume—they correlate
The wealth of nations and their policies,
Distinguishing phenomenon and cause
Until equations cut through fallacies,
Assuming over time the air of laws.
Accordingly, with every factor weighed,
The State will be apprised of how to spend.
In high demand, proportionately paid,
Those who’ve advanced their field approach day’s end
With puzzles yet to solve, but satisfied,
And step around the beggars stretched outside.
J.D. Smith writes: “The poem arises from the daily–and uneasy–contrast between ‘Washington’, the arena of politics and policy that draws players from around the world, and ‘DC’, the place that most residents know, with all the attendant problems of urban life in the United States. (I work in the former, though in a minor capacity, and live in the latter.) A complex society needs experts, so I won’t get on the bandwagon of anti-intellectualism, but I remain deeply troubled by the disconnect between many of those experts’ abstract work, accompanied by ambition, and how they address or refuse to address the actual human beings they encounter.”
J.D. Smith has published six books of poetry, most recently the light verse collection Catalogs for Food Lovers, and he has received a Fellowship in Poetry from the United States National Endowment for the Arts. Smith’s first fiction collection, Transit, will be published in December 2022. His other books include the essay collection Dowsing and Science. Smith works in Washington, DC, where he lives with his wife Paula Van Lare and their rescue animals. Twitter: @Smitroverse
“Separated at Berth” by Chicago Man is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Especially as a Washingtonian, this really resonates with me. I love the unstintingly regular meter you use everywhere except S3L4, and all the stuffy, cerebral language in all but the last line. All this sets things up beautifully for that final leveling line! It’s a jarring contrast in theme and tone, but appropriately, it’s still locked within the pervasive metrical regularity, just as our homeless people are locked into the results of our bureaucratic system.
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Nice comments! I think you have caught exactly what J.D. Smith was expressing.
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