Volume 32, Number 3

The Social Contract

The envelopes drop daily to the foyer floor, the door’s mail mouth clapping shut, demanding the usual ransom: give today to Save the Children the suicidal Africa’s Wildlife everyone’s bees literacy Monarchs women’s reproductive rights public radio Philabundance trans-youth the Human Rights Campaign Audubon’s Near Extinct the multiplying homeless you can make a difference to Doctors Without Borders or to correct cleft lips genital mutilation Republican gerrymandering the oceans’ plastic swamps police brutality against communities of color not to mention men walking or driving while black or donate now to Indigenous Education Susan G. Komen breast cancer Habitat for Humanity The Salvation Army Salvadoran and Honduran migrants all of this follows me floor to floor today tomorrow next month past 2030 when fuel emission standards will be reduced globally so my grandchildren’s children might inhabit a blue-green planet but only if I give generously which I’ve clearly done too often to compound these appeals but I can’t just recycle Nancy Pelosi’s alarmed pleas about Trump’s 2024 war chest all news of the starving poached kill sheltered or shivering outside in winter pups people whose new hearts lungs kidneys might fly to them—housed in a cooler on ice, as if the harvested organs were traveling happily to a family picnic—but only today with my help. My role exhausts me. Most often I pull the pile from the big blue bin, bump it to the second floor wicker basket, where social need and species’ survival live for weeks or months, gathering guilt like dust in my office.

—VA Smith