Up at the first hint of dawn
during an icy-blue January thaw,
they're ready and willing to work,
taking up usual positions on a street corner.
They're from Quito, Managua and Guadalajara
but understand each other very well.
They live with relatives of relatives
in the run-down section of Jersey City
They bullshit with each other, freezing
in bitter cold, slapping arms across their chests
to keep warm, wearing only skimpy sweatshirts,
sneakers and baseball caps.
While they cling together like refugees on a raft,
trying to scarf a bit of warmth
off a sun-warmed brick wall,
they wait and wait and wait,
One fellow looks at a well-worn photo
of a girlfriend on a swing he made for her.
He worries she may find out
about his brand new Stateside fling.
Hoping to be adopted like orphans
they gaze imploringly at every car driving by,
Sometimes waiting all day for nada.
If lucky, eyes lock and a car stops.
They miss tortillas, enchiladas and plantain,
and don't like eating bi bim bap, bulgogi and panchan.
Yellow rice and black beans would be muy bueno.
Compassionate neighbors donate warm coats,
old shoes and cans of Spam and sardines.
Tea Party politicos want them arrested
and manacled like wanted desperados.
They stand at the corner in bleak stillness.
As winter's damp hand enfolds them,
sepia memories of a sun-filled jobless zocalo
shiver in the blue New Jersey dawn.
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 80 year old psychologist who has published numerous poems in periodicals such as the Slipstream Magazine, Antigonish Review, Toronto Quarterly Review, Wisconsin Review, Rurtherford Red Wheelbarrow, Dream Fantasy International, Shofar Literary Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.