Norbert Hirschhorn: Two Poems

Norbert Hirschhorn

Norbert Hirschhorn is a physician specializing in international public health, commended in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as an “American Health Hero”. He now lives in London and Beirut.
Hirschhorn received a Master in Fine Arts degree from Vermont College in 1994. His poems have been published in over three dozen journals, seven anthologies, four pamphlets (the most recent: The Terrible Crystal, from Hearing Eye, London, 2008), and two full collections: A Cracked River (Slow Dancer Press, 1999) and Mourning in the Presence of a Corpse (Dar al-Jadeed, 2008). A third collection, Night-Time Shadows, is out to publishers. Visit his website.

Abecedarium for the Workers of the World
Rich men dine on artichokes
Poor men choke on beans
Rich men quaff Krug champagne
Poor men swallow dreck and dregs
Rich men rub elbows
Poor men soak their feet
Rich men throw garden galas
Poor men shelter in cardboard hovels
Rich men collect illegal ivory
Poor men jailed for stealing junk
Rich men’s wealth swung by karma
Poor men’s bread wrung from labor
Rich men’s lives a Mozartian melody
Poor men’s lives a never-done noise
Rich men’s wives show off black opals
Poor men’s wives make do with paste
Rich men sleep at ease under quilts
Poor men lie rigid under rags
Rich men work the poor like slaves
Poor men prepare their Thermopylae
Rich men exploit unremitting
Poor men their short-lived victims
Rich men take the waters in winter
Poor men queue for soup at Xmas
Rich men own yachts
Poor men own zilch
Beggars of Beirut
Something smashed his hips – a bomb, a building –
     leaving him jack-knifed, bent square, a large brown dog,
     with flip-flops on his hands to pad home with.
     He teeters in the roadway, one hand offered
     to passing motorists. Sometimes a thrown coin
     rolls into the gutter, a bill flutters off
     in a breeze; never mind, he’ll retrieve them later,
     all in an honest day’s work.
A lumpish woman, huddled, muttering,
     someone’s mother, put out each morning
     on a camp chair, all weathers. On her lap,
     a ‘poor box’ holding a handful of Chicklet packs
     no one dare buy: just leave money,
     no pennies either. Her business is rage.
Clubfoot, big smile, thorny moustache, crutches since youth;
     he trawls the Corniche at sunup for walkers,
     for joggers who know him by name: Walid.
     By midday he’s working the crowd at a falafel stand;
     at evening rush-hour on a roundabout median.
     This is his job. He does it well.
A waddly old woman, anyone’s grandmother,
     dropped off each morning by the seaside,
     sits lengthwise on backless stone; in her lap
     a shawl, an umbrella, an apron to catch charity.
     To each and every she cries, “May God bless you,
     your family! lengthen your life! give you well-being!
     you are full of taste! God bless your eyes!”
     She will levitate. Her work is rapture.
Visit Norbert’s website.

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