Alabama

(Unpublished) #Poem: “Five or Six”

I wrote this poem in early 2008, back when the minimum wage was less than its current $7.25/hour. The poem’s speaker is any of dozens of people I’ve worked alongside in my life: hard-working, decent, tired, struggling to make ends meet, and largely apolitical. From my teenage years through my mid-twenties, I worked a variety of low-wage jobs, often two at a time. So I’ve been there, too. Given the current debates over income inequality and the minimum wage, and the fact that it is election day, it seemed like a good time to share this poem.

Five or Six

It’s hard to get by
when you’re only making
five or six bucks an hour.

Most folks I know do it
by getting an extra
five or six hours of overtime,

and most of them have to
so they can pay down those
five or six past-due bills

that come in every week.
So they work hard and have
five or six people living with them,

most of them family,
but their houses don’t have
five or six bedrooms,

so it’s kind of cramped.
Right now I can think of
five or six other ways

of supporting my family
and making more money,
five or six times what I make now;

stealing copper or selling drugs
may seem easier but it’ll get you
five or six years in prison.

I don’t know much about politics
but I hear tell that I’ve got
five or six elected officials

supposed to be working for me
but for every one of their
five or six promises

only about zero come true,
because there are always
five or six of their cronies

who they owe a favor.
So when they’ve got
five or six more important tasks

than raising minimum wage
I hope they’ll give even
five or six tiny seconds

of thought to folks like me
who sweat and ache, only making
five or six bucks an hour.

* * *

Previous posts:

(Unpublished) #Poem: “Prairie Mud”

(Unpublished) #Poem: “The Greatest Unknown”

(Unpublished) #Poem: “Cycle”

(Unpublished) #Poem: “Curb Market, Saturday Morning”

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