Hardtimes Lessons: “Moonlighting,” story and poem by William T. Dawson

William T. Dawson’s poem “Moonlighting” is a poem of an event from the 1980s (when some of us remember the recession). Dawson’s poem speaks to our times as hard times cycle back around. I asked William to tell us a bit about the context surrounding writing his poem. This is what he said:

I write primarily from experience and from an inner voice that speaks like the word of God.

You’ll recall William Dawson’s poem probing the function of the poet in society earlier on Riehlife in a poem titled “Snowblindness.”

I arrived in Tucson Arizona a little after the 4th of July 1982 with my car packed for survival. All the tools a craftsman would need plus $75.00 only to find unemployment 25%.

The first thing they told me was if you can survive here you can survive anywhere. I connected with a guy who allowed me the comfort of his couch in what seemed like a house under repair. He introduced me to his friends one of which was a family coming off harder times. They had just moved into a one room concrete home with few windows to accommodate the sun and shared a humble dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches, chips and soda pop.

They were so grateful to be together and cherished their new home. Two kids a girl nine a boy five with rashes over his legs who was constantly being told Don’t Itch. The mother worked nights doing telemarketing at least that is what I was told and the husband, an unskilled uneducated laborer, well there was hardly any work to be found and what work there was paid little to nothing. He’d go out each day and create work like raking the dust pools found on one’s dead lawn three hours max.

One Sunday night late about 10 pm while out cruising out of boredom I pass this bus stop and lo and behold there sat what appeared to be the mother sitting on the bench waiting for the bus that would never come til morn. A couple of blocks down I turned around and went back. She had disappeared out of sight. About two weeks later at a social gathering she confronted me with words in her way that said “keep Sunday night to myself”.


by William T. Dawson

Sunday night and the last South Main bus had run
an hour and half
Yet, there she sat under the glow
Of a street lamp

On the bench in anticipation
Like a church going woman in prayer
With two kids at home
Told her husband she was

And thanked him for his kindness
To baby sit and care for her children

Unemployment was a dusty desert town 25%,
And her husband, bless his heart
Was an unskilled uneducated laborer working whenever he could
For whatever he could

Two kids, a girl nine and a boy five
Suffered from a rash on his legs almost from birth
They had broken bread with me in their concrete block one room home
They shared their hospitality
They share their gratitude
That hot summer

It was more than just a lesson in survival
It was a lesson in motherhood and in the togetherness
Of a family
It was a lesson in the humbleness and love
Of a Mother Mary
It was a lesson
Taught in America among its poor
Outside The Ivied Walls of Elitism

(copyright 2008 by William T. Dawson all rights reserved)

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