Encomium to low wage earners

Slowly, the coins mount
in their waxed cardboard offering-cup,
potentless pennies, magnanimous quarters,
an occasional dollar bill
left while dashing through, as the beneficiaries can only
mumly gaze.

Each lifting a coffee cup or an invoice or a print-out from the common pile
moves his feet along the circular path of an undistinguished toil,
crumpled under the load of procurement orders and unshelved returns,
obscurity for raiment,
dullness for ornament.

Each! Yet no one has earned endowment toward the purchase of
That which could lift each one from the morass to the light is
mortified by routine.
Denatured spirits,
Where is your comfort?
Flailing ones!
In your distressed condition you crank onward
the mortifying wheel.

Slowly, the minutes trundle by on the wall-clock,
sometimes poised almost motionless in breathless waiting,
sometimes more animated toward the end of the shift. But what does it matter?
Whether one piles on minutes in this job or the next,
or on the jostling bus,
or in the long-awaited bedtime hours
in dreams of neighbors screaming at neighbors
or formless disturbances by thudding clanks and bellows,
or of a childhood brightly lit in which some had remarked upon
a possibility for a future.

Andy Oram
February 28, 2003

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