Monday, October 24, 2011

Donal Mahoney- A Poem

Caseworker: Yams and Plantain

   The Housing Project
     Summer in Chicago

Bienvenido’s comin’ over,
says his wife,
to ‘splain me
why the kids
have got no rice,
no beans,
how the landlord’s
shovin’ notes beneath
the door again.
In Puerto Rico Bienvenido
dug up yams,
was paid in plantain,
came over here,
brought his wife,
then his kids.
First New York,
then Chicago,
gave up yams,
gave up plantain,
just to drum
and make a living.

Oddly, this is another poem that came out of real life. When I was a pup fresh out of grad school and didn't want to teach, I took a job as a caseworker in the projects--458 families in two gigantic buildings. Kennedy was president and there was hope, real or false, in the land. But I'll never forget talking to those families. Believe me, times were tough for them back then but times right now are tougher for the country and especially for people like Bienvenido and others. They seem to have no hope. Today, white as I am, I could not go into those buildings if they still existed because I'd be robbed or shot. I understand the problem but I have no solutions. I simply fear that things will continue to get worse. And I see no solution in either political party. Some day I hope to do a piece about the guy in the projects caught barbecuing in his bathtub on the 14th floor. That was a humdinger. 

Donal Mahoney has had work published in Dead Snakes and other publications in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa

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