In the Unemployment Line--month three
by Ann Howells

He doesn’t meet your eye, shifts
left foot to right, studies posted signs,
oozes bafflement. He whispers
to the clerk, doesn’t understand the lingo.
He’s dropped cable, lowered thermostat,

borrowed from his IRA. Wife prepares
meatless meals; kids receive free lunch.
He shines his own shoes, cuts his own hair,
rides the bus. Old buddies no longer
acknowledge him; creditors call at dinner.

He mails endless resumes, wears desperation.
No longer Mister, he is number 785-023,
nameless as the filing temps, accepting
a check for not enough to get by,
coming like the family dog when called.

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