The Girl: Minimum Rage

The girl stands at a train station,
a campaign whistle stop,
the crowd surrounding for the FDR speech,
waves of hope lapping as if they are standing
near a shore.

The President! FDR!
Initials like a rock they throw their arms around
because they were all drowning in 1938,
the weather that day, Depression.
Standing beside him, his sharp-eyed wife.
They say she knows about the girls.
In the night Eleanor feeds his fertile mind,
tells him over and over
about the poor
about a New Deal. 

The girl has a note,
five scrawled words:
“Can you help the girls?”
She knows, not just any girls, 
but the name for the ones who
clean every spot, spill, vomit, shit
that the rich of the world ever make,
who get paid $4 a week
so that the ends don’t even know where to meet.

She lunges forward through the swell of the crowd,
the note stuck out before her, 
waving in her hand above her head.
like fighting to get the attention of the life guard
when you are drowning. 

Close to the shore, a policeman stops her,
shoves her back violently.
As if she were drowning, she shouts: “Help! Help!”
frantic arms waving before she goes under. 

They notice an eddy in the waves.

Eleanor demands, her spouse beckons, 
the policeman relents--
lets the girl through like the sea has parted. 
In a clenched fist,
she shoves the note skyward
toward the caboose.  

Five simple words: 
“Can you help the girls?”
Can you give us decent wages?
I am legion and I make four dollars a week.

Eleanor and FDR agree.
Twenty-five cents an hour,
triples her weekly, 
changes history forever.

The girl swims back into the crowd,
butterfly strokes as she heads into
the storm of her history,
heard from no more. 

Seattle: Minimum wage: $15.00 now.
Will  be everywhere one day, maybe more.

Praise to the rage of the girl.

Originally published in Quail Bell Magazine