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poetry Professional Rioters

Colorado poet José A. Alcántara has a thing or two to say about the difference between so-called professional revolutionaries and mere amateurs.

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Professional Rioters

By José A. Alcántara

While those who were arrested all live in Erie, we believe that there were professional rioters present from out-of-town because we overheard them asking for directions.

Dan Spizarny, Chief of Police, Erie, Pennsylvania

That’s who smashed the coffee shop windows in Erie,

set the dumpster fires in Portland,

toppled the Confederate statues in Charleston.

As a professional rioter myself – proud member of the ARA

(American Rioter’s Association) – I must confess

that not all of these uprisings are of our doing.

Rumor has it that there are some disgruntled school teachers,

some unhappy gas station attendants, a few radicalized

librarians taking over their neighborhood streets. 

Much as we professionals like to take the high ground,

I have to admit, some of these amateurs know how

to carry a sign, how to light a fire, how to pick up a stone.

Now, Officer, could you point me to that paint store again?

José A. Alcántara lives in western Colorado. He has worked as a bookseller, mailman, commercial fisherman, electrician, baker, carpenter, studio photographer, door-to-door salesman, and math teacher. His poems have appeared in American Life in Poetry, Poetry Daily, The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Plainsongs, Spillway, Rattle, RHINO, The American Journal of Poetry, and the anthologies, 99 Poems for the 99%, and America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience. His poem, Divorce, won the 2021 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle. His first poetry collection, The Bitten World, is forthcoming from Tebot Bach.