Unemployment Line

He impressed me–
the way he kept a smile
As he stood with the other hungry faces
With vacant downcast eyes
Wearing their defeated shoes with no laces
Shoes two sizes bigger than their feet

His smile, a sunbeam, spread
across his broad whiskered face
His determination gleamed through his faded blue work shirt
All the way down to his large muscular hands
That weren’t afraid of a sweat-stained shovel handle
Or to grip the sour-smelling rags, used
to clean the public toilets at 55th Street Station

I counted them–
One hundred and thirty-three men and forty-one women, waiting
to be chosen for work, any job
that would put a dime, hopefully a quarter in their pockets
Enough for a loaf of day-old bread, maybe some beans
If lucky, a can of oily sardines

I was glad they picked him
His smile set him apart from the others
I shouldn’t play favorites
Each one of them deserved a job
Some food for their families
A pair of shoes that fits

One thought on “Unemployment Line

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