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By Philip Schultz

My ocean town struggles

to pick up leaves,

offer summer school,

and keep our library open.

Every day now

more men stand

at the railroad station,

waiting to be chosen for work.

Because it’s thought

the Hispanics will work for less

they get picked first,

while the whites and blacks

avoid the terror

in one another’s eyes.

Our handyman, Santos,

who expects only

what his hands earn,

is proud of   his half acre in Guatemala,

where he plans to retire.

His desire to proceed with dignity

is admirable, but he knows

that now no one retires,

everyone works harder.

My father imagined a life

more satisfying than the one

he managed to lead.

He didn’t see himself as uneducated,

thwarted, or bitter,

but soon-to-be rich.

Being rich was his right, he believed.

Happiness, I used to think,

was a necessary illusion.

Now I think it’s just

precious moments of relief,

like dreams of Guatemala.

Sometimes, at night,

in winter, surrounded by

the significant silence

of empty mansions,

which once were cottages,

where people lived their lives,

and now are owned by banks

and the absent rich,

I like to stand at my window,

looking for a tv’s futile flickering,

always surprised to see

instead

the quaint, porous face

of my reflection,

immersed

in its one abundance.


Source: Poetry (July 2013)

  • Relationships
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Philip Schultz
Founder and director of the Writers Studio in New York, Philip Schultz grew up in Rochester, New York. Schultz’s work delves into personal history, family, the city, and immigrant and Jewish experience. He lives in East Hampton, New York, with his wife, the sculptor Monica Banks, and their children.

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