Our town was not a town married
to a company where uncles, fathers
and grandfathers in turn
carried lunch pails, coal drab
and filled with catsup sandwiches.
They did not work for the "Man"
in endless days then
go to the "Hall" on meeting nights
to raise their hands in unison
voting for benefits they would not
live long enough to receive.
I with friends never heard
the quittin' whistle blow at six,
watched long lines of soot-faced men
wearily walk to the corner pub
lift pints of frothy brew
vowing their sons would never
work for the company,
their daughters marry company men.
Nor did we do a body count brought up
from leaky shafts days after,
or lie in bed sniffing the oderless gas
that permeated dated pitchy mines
knowing we might be counted, next time.
No crippling fat moms,
listening to nightly guttural coughs,
watching mates sallow and waste
long before mercy
took the unwilling host.
Ripe virgin sisters were not left
to cry nights unnumbered
in homes of maiden aunts
while orphaned brothers shipped off,
never to return from nameless places
and I today at fifty-seven
reflect with some regret
at all I missed being,
not being from a company town.
They were all there,
left behind when he left,
checks and plaids, flannels.
Today I wear one
while weeding the garden.
It's worn warm and cozy;
maybe it's the shirt
or the day or the way I feel
being number two.
Number two isn't so bad
if number one was a rat
or a louse as I have been told.
The shirt fits me like it was
tailor-made and even his name
has my size
when she calls me by it.
|"Our Town" was first published in The Journal of
New Jersey Poets.|
"My Size" was published in Beyond the Seven Bridges.
|Jerseyworks home poetry interview paintings fiction|