By Marilyn Zuckerman
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.
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This poem is from a collection called “Foreclosure”, written about collateral damage caused by the Recession of 2008 and it unfortunately appears to be even more relevant today.