Donal Mahoney

Not the Same as Bangladesh 
 
It’s not the same as seeing the poor 
in Bangladesh on PBS and hearing 
Gwen or Judy tell us about them because 
the poor in Bangladesh scream in silence, 
brown and gaunt and hollow-eyed.
Many of them have jobs that feed few
even when the factory isn’t burning. 
 
But in time you begin to think that’s what poor is, 
living in Bangladesh, until you find out someone 
you’ve known for years and thought still lived down 
the street and was worried about his crabgrass 
but had enough to eat and pay his mortgage 
only to find out that’s no longer the case
 
and hasn’t been since he lost his job and wife 
and kids and sleeps where they take him in when 
the weather’s bad, and has to thumb a ride 
to a part-time job at the midnight shift at QuikTrip 
because he hasn’t got the bus fare.
 
Then you see the guy early Saturday morning 
on your way to the Farmer’s Market and he waves 
from across the street and looks the same and you 
realize you don’t have to be brown and gaunt and 
hollow-eyed in Bangladesh to need help in America, 
 
home of the hidden poor who look as though 
they’re doing as well as you think you are and you 
wonder if maybe you should at least listen to the 
gray-haired man who needs a comb and yells like 
he’s hawking a Rolex in the Bronx and doesn’t live 
in Vermont but wants to change everything because 
if the man is right, the guillotine may fall on you.
 
Donal Mahoney

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