Social Justice Poetry

Old Man in the Attic | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

He lives in the attic
of the brownstone
down on the corner,
been there for years.
He’s seen twice a day
by the neighborhood watch,
ladies as old as he is
peering out windows
as he walks his dog,
a waddling pug.

I talked to him one day
while looking for the paper
at dawn on the lawn
and he told me he once
pumped gas for a living
and liked it because
he knew what to do
fill the tank, check the oil,
clean the windshield,
always be nice to people,
the hardest part
of the job, he said.

He pumped gas for years
at different stations until
self-service came in
and he was out of work.
He bagged groceries
for awhile but was
laid off when stores
asked everyone
to bag their own.
He’s retired now
on Social Security
and gets food stamps.
His pug eats more
than he does, he says,
and smiles at him.

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