“…noted in the record, / but the file cannot be found.” (Ken Kimmel)

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The Crush. Dir. Alan Shapiro. Warner Bros., 1993.


by Ken Kimmel

Trap is sprung
like clockwork.
One-million bits
of information
per second.
Bulging files
of xerox-white
spilling over–
onto the floor–
magically transformed
into opaque
microfiche replicas.
Acres of trees
outlived their usefulness.
Recycled from
Top-Secret status
to end in shreds.
Horn-rimmed glasses
of dull-witted,
welfare worker
lay low
on his nose,
held loosely together
by red tape.

The line for food stamps grows longer.

System is down,
come back tomorrow.
Fill out this form
and have a seat.
For ten-thousand bucks,
brunch with your
senator of choice.
Only thirteen
soldiers died,
men of honor, till
their last breath.
Register to vote and
for the draft.
Just one more form–
database bound.

Softly-clicking keys.

Arrival at destination
O-300 XQL
is noted in the record,
but the file cannot be found.
Are you a communist?
A socialist?
An anarchist?
A terrorist?
Drug dealer?

I’m an American.

Fill these out
in triplicate
and have a seat.

Cold stare fixed
on smug smile
as baby starts to cry.
Next in line.


Ken Kimmel, Winner of the American Academy of Poets Josephine Miles Prize
“Observations,” by Ken Kimmel originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1990, City College of San Francisco).

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