We’re always extolling the virtues of Philadelphia
To our kids, who grew up hundreds of miles away
In the Midwest, so once, with a bit of time free,
Driving home from the shore, we stopped for cheese steaks.
It was between Pat’s and Geno’s, both world
Famous, but it was mid-afternoon, July 4th, fireworks
Slated, and if we wanted one with the works,
And didn’t want to be stuck in Philadelphia
Traffic, we’d have to merge quickly into the world
Of hunger and sloth, wending its way
Around telly poles, lampposts, construction stakes
To Geno’s, terrible choice, once we saw the FREE
MUMIA poster next to a Home of the Free—
English Only sign. Here, among working
Stiff Italians who love their cops, who’d burn at the stake
A cop killer like Mumia Abu-Jamal, though Philadelphia
Police messed with the crime scene, refused to weigh
Exculpatory evidence, and lied. The whole world
Knows he was framed. Except in this world
Of skived beef, cheese whiz, nothing carcinogen-free,
Where all’s devoured and nothing’s tossed away.
We know exactly how it works—
Even as a young teen Mumia was targeted by Philly
Cops, for trumpeting Malcolm X, each year the stakes
Raised, his file expanded, every day a new stake-
Out. “Mumia, the only authentic revolutionary in the western world,”
Political prisoner 3 decades on Death Row, reviled in Philly ,
Lionized everywhere else, the empire will never set him free.
If he were to be executed, there would be fireworks.
“You can track ‘em, absorb ‘em, dilute ‘em” put ‘em away”
But you can’t let ‘em speak.” We went away
Hating the greasy, sodden, gamy, steak
Sandwiches, disconcerted, taken aback by the work
Undone, crestfallen in this fallen world.
There’s no chance Mumia will be set free,
These days we rarely make it to Philadelphia.
Leonard Kress has recent work (fiction and poetry) in American Poetry Review, Barn Owl Review, Passages North, Harvard Review, New Orleans Review, River Styx, and Atticus Review. Most recent poetry collections are Thirteens, The Orpheus Complex, and Living in the Candy Store. He currently teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.