Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes

This poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti deals with the cultural divide caused by class.  The ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ are together but only because the traffic light has brought them together.  As the bin men look at the cool couple in the Mercedes, we see the  contrast between their status and their prospects.  The material wealth of the couple in the car is emphasised.  The men on the back of the lorry deal with waste.  In one society, we have two extremes.

Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes

At the stoplight waiting for the light
nine a.m. downtown San Francisco
a bright yellow garbage truck
with two garbagemen in red plastic blazers
standing on the back stop
one on each side hanging on
and looking down into
an elegant open Mercedes
with an elegant couple in it

The man
in a hip three-piece linen suit
with shoulder-length blond hair & sunglasses
The young blond woman so casually coifed
with a short skirt and colored stockings
on the way to his architect’s office

And the two scavengers up since four a.m.
grungy from their route
on the way home
the older of the two with grey iron hair
and hunched back
looking down like some
gargoyle Quasimodo
And the younger of the two
also with sunglasses and long hair
about the same age as the Mercedes driver

And both scavengers gazing down
as from a great distance
at the cool couple
as if they were watching some odourless TV ad
in which everything is always possible

And the very red light for an instant
holding all four close together
as if anything at all were possible
between them
across that small gulf
in the high seas
of this democracy

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

BlogFerlinghetti

 

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