by Lex Runciman
Though I knew them in homes and work,
In argument and quiet, and loved them,
They were inarticulate and they liked to hit.
Born to absorb punishment like men,
Born to dish it out--even as little boys
They were sex-driven, the losers and the winners.
For five or six generations (which was longer
Than they could remember), they worked hard
To become cogs, gears, the grease or the machine
At salary, hourly, or piece rates.
If lucky, they bullied others; if not, they went surly
And in their perversity never missed a day.
They spent long hours learning numb,
Learning repetition, learning boredom.
They were befuddled by the idea of beauty
Until they saw it, until they were seized by it,
Weak-kneed by it, mute and sheepish
And then probably angry. They used women,
Children, dogs as they were used, and the nameless
Remorse they felt drove them to rage, to drink
Or bowl or shoot birds they loved to see flying.
They could be smart about any number of constructions
Including faucets and all the ball sports but tennis.
They could even know what they wanted for others,
What they worked and worked for, though emotion
Embarrassed them: they sent cards
Or bought freezers as surprises.
The paycheck--never enough--was proof
Of love, that word they could not quite
Get in their mouths. They saved
For education for their children, who
If successful, they did not understand, who
Thinking of them, wished them ease
And thanksgiving, and thought pity.