By Michael M. Barrick
Do not be deceived by the 4,000 square-foot house on the fairway.
The man inside, when his income dropped from seven figures to six,
drove to a city park, walked into the woods and put a revolver in his mouth.
Besides leaving behind enough wealth to feed thousands of starving children,
he also left a widow and an orphan in distress.
His suicide note was written as precisely as any insurance contract he inked.
Just an hour before killing himself, he played golf with his friends.
He called his wife and said he would see her at dinner.
It was all a façade, masking his interior poverty.
The ramshackle homes of the central West Virginia town
alert the passerby to a shared poverty.
It is, true, a scarcity of the purse.
But it is also poverty with a curse.
It is a contagion of despair.
Why else would every house be in disrepair?
Poverty need not equal filth.
Poverty need not equal mediocrity.
Poverty need not equal ignorance.
Poverty need not equal apathy.
Yet, here it does.
It is as if a vote has been taken;
by informal acclamation, by consent agreement,
a community has surrendered.
They have allowed the corporate barons
that provided and then withdrawn the work to rob them –
of their dignity,
of their hope,
of their souls.
Through surrender to their deprivation,
they have invited desperation to live among them – to lead them.
Yes, they are victims of the new Gilded Age.
Yes, they are the casualties of the Momentum of Mediocrity.
Yes, they have been defeated and defrauded by those that own the politicians.
To deny that their impoverished existence is caused by injustice
is to deny the truth.
Yet, it is also certain that they have surrendered that which
can only be given, not taken – their essence.
The self-neglect reveals what they have collectively accepted – interior poverty.
He abused his position, his power and his vows.
He wore the Roman Collar.
He ranked high in the diocese; was wined and dined at the state capitol.
He sexually abused young men, it was asserted (but that is the safe word, for too many knew it was so).
On the eve of his indictment, he died mysteriously.
He was called Father.
He was called to be holy.
Those who could have stopped him, did not.
The one willing to speak – who, in fact, alerted Rome – was banished.
One man, charged with leading the faithful to the Truth.
Instead, he prowled and devoured.
When will it stop?
Until it does, are we to conclude that the Pope is a dope? Or is that too kind?
The Vatican – such wealth.
The parishes – half empty.
Abandoned by those who can not, will not
reconcile the collection basket with abandoned and disparaged souls.
His legacy is the worst kind
of interior poverty – poverty of the soul.
Living in a putrid mess,
addicted to numbing pharmaceuticals,
the brilliant man is challenged – “You have choices you know.”
He responds, “In theory, that’s true.”
Pausing, he adds, “Practically speaking though, I don’t.”
For now, interior poverty rules his life.
Is there hope, or is he astutely accurate?
© Michael M. Barrick / Appalachian Chronicle, 2012-2014