Social Justice Poetry

Lessons Learned on a Farm | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

America has two kinds
of migrants, those with money
and those with hope,
a farmer’s wife told me the day
I stopped to buy some eggs.
She was surprised I had driven
all the way out from the city.
Not many strangers do.

She knew the suburb I lived in,
one of those small inner-ring suburbs,
she called it, one of the old ones between
the city and the new suburbs farther out,
the ones that have better schools,
a nicer life, more opportunity.
She had a married son rearing
a family in one of the new suburbs.
He used to live where I do, she said,
but took his wife and kids and moved.

I said many of my neighbors
had moved out there too and
claim I should join them but
I’m partial to old brownstones,
cobbled streets and alleys.
I played ball in an alley as a child
and I still miss the fun.
I guess I’m not practical.

She said she hoped I’d take no insult
but asked if I didn’t realize those
who leave the old suburbs
think of them as Death Valley?
And those who escape the city
and move to the old suburbs
think they’ve gone to paradise.
Did I get her point, she asked?
I said I certainly did.

Some city folks, I mentioned,
had moved to my block
and they really take care
of their house and property.
It can be embarrassing, I said.

Moving on to another cow,
she paused to say that if
I liked urban life, that’s fine
but even if the old suburbs are
half way to heaven for the migrants
moving in, they’re close to hell for
the migrants moving out.
Did I get her drift, she asked?
How could I miss it, I said?

She said that out in the country,
farmers have a saying that
might apply to folks like me.
To each his own is what they say.
Finished now with her milking,
she kissed her cow, and headed for
the hen house to get my eggs.

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