>Brother Can You Spare A Dime? Poems Of The Great Depression

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Pantoum Of The Great Depression
by Donald Justice

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don’t remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don’t remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the actual world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

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Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
Gorney, Harburg

They used to tell me
I was building a dream.
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow
Or guns to bear
I was always there
Right on the job.
They used to tell me
I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead.
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
Once I built a railroad
I made it run
Made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad
Now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower up to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime.
Once I built a tower,
Now it’s done.
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once in khaki suits
Gee we looked swell
Full of that yankee doodle dee dum.
Half a million boots went sloggin’ through hell
And I was the kid with the drum!
Say don’t you remember?
They called me Al.
It was Al all the time.
Why don’t you remember?
I’m your pal.
Say buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits,
Ah, gee we looked swell
Full of that yankee doodle dee dum!
Half a million boots went sloggin’ through hell
And I was the kid with the drum!
Oh, say don’t you remember?
They called me Al.
It was Al all the time.
Say, don’t you remember?
I’m your pal.
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

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