Two poems by Marilyn Zuckerman

Children at crumpsall workhouse circa 1895


Somebody lost their job
Someone else had a heart attack
And needs an implant
Somebody broke their leg
And Someone else made a bad investment and didn’t get a bailout
Somebody’s pension is gone
And now there’s nothing left
Someone else’s mom has Alzheimer’s and had to go to a nursing home
Somebody’s kid has leukemia and needs costly meds

So Somebody went bankrupt
And Someone’s house is in foreclosure
Now Somebody’s unemployment benefits are running out
And who knows where all the Somebody’s will sleep tonight

Booth Poverty Map 1898-99 detail (http://booth.lse.ac.uk/)

· · · · · · · ·

I first wrote these poems back in the early days of foreclosures and predatory lending.  I felt helpless then in the face of evictions and the consequential homelessness.  Now that $40 billion in food stamps have been taken from the starving – mostly children, the elderly and the disabled – and 26 states have denied Medicaid funding to the needy, I’d like to post these poems on this blog to reflect how doubly helpless I feel today and where I believe all this will take us.

Waif Girl © The Children's Society (http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/)

Back to the Future

Back to let them eat cake,
to Oliver wants more,
to orphans, hair shorn, lined up, plates out,
to the Dickensian streets,
to children lining the tracks, picking up bits of coal,
swallowing down road kill rejected by dogs
—while Oliver slaves in the blacking factory
and Tiny Tim does die for lack of a doctor’s care.

Back to Scrooge, who never went away,
to child labor in the coal mines or coal factories
out of Blake’s dark satanic mills.
Back to typhoid and tuberculosis.
When all the owners care about is cost, people die.

Out of the mist, the fog and soot —
comes the pauper, the chimney sweep, the starveling —
with hungry eyes and dirty fingers,
pressed against the glass of the restaurant window
where you are eating your Christmas turkey.

Back to the return of charity,
of the sanctimonious charity of the wealthy—
like the dimes Henry Ford scattered to the crowd.
And who but Scrooge denies heat to the freezing,
aid to the famished and rest to the tired?

Back to that heartless century, in a soulless city.

To the workhouse with its iron gates.

To smokestacks against the sky.

Back to those dank, back alleys where we have taken a journey
to a time and place that are becoming more familiar to us each day
for soon the brown air of London will be ours too.

Victorian London (via Wikipedia)

·    ·    ·


PNA Swoosh


4 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Powerful and a little too dark. I have more optimism than to believe we will retreat that far back. And yet, I do believe it is a cautionary time for all of us – to speak up to our elected leaders for not living up to what should be their commitment to the people, to challenge their petty, it’s all about me ways.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Donna. As you say,”…a cautionary time for all of us.”. For me that is the goal of political poetry– to raise consciousness. Thanks again for responding and for reading the work?

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