Social Justice Poetry

Not the Same as Bangladesh | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

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.

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