Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter

Food, clothing and shelter
That’s all that’s needed to sustain life
Or so we are told and taught
As soon as we are deemed capable
Of absorbing other people’s ideas
In what is laughingly called
Free public school education

Food, clothing and shelter
That’s all that is needed to sustain life
Not love, not mercy, not joy, not sorrow,
Not war, not peace, not justice,
not poetry, nor romance,
nor dog, nor wife
Just food, clothing and shelter

Provide a man with food, clothing and shelter
And he’ll get up every morning and go to work,
He’ll marry and reproduce
He’ll buy property and expand the economy
He’ll soon want to drive a car
And take a vacation
And pursue higher education
And earn advanced degrees and awards
And excel at sports and hobbies of every kind

And then he’ll grow old
And begin to wither
And along the way
He’ll bury a few relatives
Though hopefully not his own children
Though he may see a child or two
Marching off to some god awful war
To some forlorn corner of the planet
Perhaps never to return

And he’ll learn to hurl accolades
At his leaders, whether elected or not,
Whether deserving or not,
And he’ll go to the movies to kill time
And maybe even write a book or two
In his spare time or when he cannot sleep any more

Or when he can no longer bear sleeping alone
And then he will begin to see in the mirror
The face of old age
Creeping up on him,
Incrementally robbing him of his strength,
His cunning, his hair and teeth
His muscle, his health,
his stamina, and finally,
The greatest theft of all,
robbing him finally of even his ability to breathe

At which point, food, clothing and shelter
Will no longer be needed
The flame of the candle
having burned itself out
The wick having turned cold and sooty to the touch
Never having needed so little to sustain it
Yet always wanting and always needing
So much.

Jack H. Markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa. 2010

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