Signing Up for Unemployment Benefits

At the Lorain Bureau of Unemployment,
I show the clerks my army discharge papers
and fill out the forms they give me
which explain how I’ve been defending

the right to earn the minimum wage.
I move from one line to another
and wait to show my paperwork to people
with jobs who tell me about the opportunities

in Corrections for ex-MPs.
I fill out more color-coded forms
under the fluorescent lights.
Before I joined the army, this building

used to be a grocery store.
I examine each form as carefully as day-old bread,
sign my name exactly the same way each time.
Somebody behind me shakes

hands with a buddy in another line.
Ronald Reagan wears a hard hat and a flannel shirt
on TV. He promises to put us all to work.
Faithfully, I carry my blue record book

each week from one factory to another,
collecting signatures, stamps, and numbers
that explain everything
except why I do not have a job.

:: Tim Skeen, Kentucky Swami (2001)

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