Tires Stacked in the Hallways of Civilization By Martín Espada: Reading and Meditation

August 3, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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Tires Stacked in the Hallways of Civilization, Martín Espada


We all tolerate different things. Especially across cultures, what is acceptable in one place is held in contempt elsewhere. But universally we make the most of necessity. The tires have to go somewhere. “This is a civilized country”, booms the bureaucratic voice in Espada’s poem. We demand that the public areas be tidy, so as to obscure the uncivilized conditions within. Where and how do we allocate the blessings of civilization? Are we content with the superficial trappings reassuring us that we do not live in a jungle? The puffed up judge and shady landlord no doubt go home thinking they have made a generous concession—tires and rodents concealed, the tenant gets to keep the cat. How often are we the landlord or the judge, convinced we have made heroic accommodations in addressing the symptoms while ignoring the fundamental causes of injustice? Let us not be content with the hallways of civilization only.

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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