POOR

Thank you for the bag of clothes.
Smile, smile, smile.
How kind, how generous, how thoughtful
you think you are.

But I know
you gave me those clothes because
they are old and worn and torn and
you wouldn’t be seen dead in them.
But I would.
Or should.

I’m poor.
Not by my own hand.
By illness, circumstance, the times.
Poor.

Your rubbish exaggerates my poverty.
Your children know
my children are wearing clothes they wouldn’t.
Rub it in.

Is charity not love?
Not when you won’t visit my home
(“so threadbare and shabby”)
or invite me to yours
(“she’s rather down at heel these days”)
or include me in your dinner parties
as once you did
(“she might turn up in one of my hand-me-downs,
the embarrassment would ruin my evening”)

The bag of clothes makes you feel
kind, generous, benevolent, clean.
It makes me feel
Poor.

C. A. HOCKING
6 September 1990

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