Art by Mirjam Frosth. Story by Charles Ely.

Laura

By Mirjam Frosth

Behind the Mirrored Windows of Skyscrapers  

By Charles Ely

There’s a shadow in the streets.
They call him the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
In Marvel’s New York, corruption
has a name.

If you have money you can afford a burger.
You can afford a shirt on your back.
Money puts a roof over your head.
Money puts a cushion between you and death.
Money will buy a nice dinner.
Money will buy a suit.
Money can make you look like money.
Money will buy the cops.
More money will buy the government.

It takes a superhero to not be bought.
He’s beating up crooks in the street,
holding them accountable by their collars
over the ledge of a high rise.

My villains don’t have a face.
How do you teach a lesson to paperwork?
Some asshole filed employees’ taxes as K-1s
so we have to pay
like we’re company partners and he owes
nothing.

What can you do to a man who has everything?
The people who bought out all our protections
with the promise of a tax break?
How do you survive the system that creates us?
The system that delineates our access to necessities in dollar signs.
Even our lives have dollar values.

We can’t afford the dentist for my girlfriend’s impacted wisdom tooth,
but I can afford the booze to dull the pain
which is how we end up trading out childish beliefs
for a paycheck, for a compromise, for just one hour more.

I want to fight my intangible villains in the night,
punch bureaucracy square in the face
a punch that will skip over clerks and secretaries,
break the nose of his boss and catch our system in the nuts.
Most of my conversations with the love of my life
are about how we’re going to afford to survive,
and there is a better use for words.
I want to say I love you like they’re the only words left in the language,
but I won’t waste our food money on roses anymore. •


Creative writing inquiries can be sent to July Thomas at crw@thefineprintmag.org.