Every man is tasked to make a life. --Thoreau
Abandon hope! Abandon hope!
Abandon soup, salvation, soap! --street song
The neighborhood is white. The houses
have gone gray and lost some parts.
Her house is empty from the front. No
one will answer when you knock. No cats
will streak across the walk, no dogs
will bark. You must go on around in back
and prove yourself against the window dark.
If she decides to try you she will let
you in and snap the lock. The kitchen
has a table with one chair. You sit.
And there's a sink with running water
in a steady leak, white metal cabinets,
chipped stove, blank Frigidaire. There are
no tile or carpet, breakfast bar or chopping
block on wheels with cutlery, no radio,
electric mixer, popper, opener, no decorator
towels, no hanging pans and baskets, macrame
embroidered sentiments, imported canisters,
no continental cookbook, antique crock. No
window shade. No garbage sack. An empty can
long dry waits on the sink. She has a knack
for finding one more place to stack
the rubbish and the cold. As still as lard
her baby on the table keeps away the ceiling
with a look that is unmoving and unmoved.
You ask about the father. He's out hunting
work and won't be back. What other questions
will you ask? Where is she from? Who
are her folks? How quickly can they come
to fetch her home? What are the facts, the
stats? What is her age? What will she tell
to one who has not drunk with her in hell?
You try again. Will she come to your office,
for intakeif only for the form's sweet sake?
Go to a clinic? Attend group? What will
she do to make it easier for you to help?
Must you enforce a rule? Who takes her out
to dance and drink? Who spends her check,
her stamps? Are those his clothes? Who buys
her soup, her soap, her dope? Where does
he sleep? Who owns that battered pick-up
truck out back? Who does she fuck? Who
does she think can change her shitty luck?
What will she do to make it easier for you
to help? Will she acknowledge guilt? How
often, and how slyly does she cheat? Caught
in the Presidential Safety Net, has she no sense
of shame? Does she not smell the stink, the
mold, ammonia, and rot? When does she bathe?
Or does she not? Does she not see the way
the nation will deteriorate? Does she believe
the fetus has a soul? Does she sometimes
abort? When will she learn to exercises
the proper self-control? Does she
acknowledge guilt? What will she do?
Does she not know the cost of those who
never sow, but reap and reap and reap?
The welfare of a modern nation is not cheap?
What will she do to make it easier for you?
She'll give you half her stare, as if
almost remembering that you are there.
Her face will be an empty stage. Her
eyes two empty pages missed somewhere
in a misprinted book. Look, if you
dare, back to the table, under the chair.
Nothing will be hiding there. Nothing
will move and nothing will speak. Nothing
will puzzle. Nothing will mock. Nothing
acknowledges that it is real. Nothing
concerns itself whether it's true. Now you
have risen. She twists back the lock.
Tom Koontz, An Ordinary World.