Michigan 2009

Michican 2009
by shawn misener
I haven’t seen an unemployment line,
but I have seen an unemployment room
stuffed with computers and people
who will help if you raise a hand.
My romantic visions of withstanding
the brutal winter in a jagged line
of forlorn men have not come true.
I expected to be huddled up and
shivering in that line as it stretched
around abandoned brownstones for miles,
men in depression caps, expressionless,
black and white coloration over the scene,
waiting for that loaf of hard bread and
maybe a pint of milk kept barely cold enough.
No, this was no high suffering,
this was a clean, well-carpeted room,
dotted with wide fat screens and
put-together people designated as helpers.

0 thoughts on “Michigan 2009

  1. My step-dad moved us to Georgia from Michigan the winter of ’82-83, partly because the same thing was happening then. The paper mill where my dad & uncle & half their classmates & neighbors worked is long gone. Michigan is unfortunately a strong example of producers having turned to mere consumers – and it’s not the workers who made that happen. Death to robber barons! Thanks, Shawn.

  2. Preconception meets reality. …a relief yet still difficult to bear. Nice back and forth contrasting. I liked ‘men in depression caps, expressionless,’–impressive word-smithing along with ‘I expected to be huddled up and shivering in that line as it stretched
    around abandoned brownstones for miles’. Image and sound collaborate together here like they’re joined at the hip. I wasn’t sure what ‘abandoned brownstones’ were–maybe rocks arranged in rings for warm fires and they have become brown from use and time. Or perhaps brownstones are drug paraphenalia…seems like i’ve heard that somewhere. Anyway, i enjoyed reading this piece, sir. Thank you for sharing.

  3. In Pennsylvania, the unemployement offices are the same but are called “CareerLink” so as to put a more positive spin on unemployment. But that’s not what I want to say. I’m more interested in the last stanza. I think it’s well done, because it does begin to illustrate the transformation of job-hunting, but it doesn’t go all the way. There were times when if you wanted to be a maid or something, you’d just go to the place you wanted to work and ask for an application… or you’d go to the unemployment office…. But nowadays, many of the jobs are posted on the internet, even menial jobs like maid and hamburger flipper. Moreover, a lot of times the people that they (the unemployment office) can’t help aren’t helped. They turn these people away, and a lot of them come to the library I work at for help (In the last year, I’ve helped three people who can bearly read apply for cleaning jobs at hotels via the internet). These people are barely literate, and it’s a bit ridiculous to ask them to load up a resume they can’t even write for jobs that don’t even require literacy or computer skills. I think that there should more emphasis on this aspect in your poem… alright, I am now stepping off my soapbox.
    Otherwise I think this is good. I especially like how it points out the irony of an unemployment office being “clean, well-carpeted”.

  4. I’ll agree mostly to “death of the robber barons”. The “clean, well-carpeted room”? That’s just the illusion that gives a hopeful illusion to an increasingly hopeless situation. I’ve stood in unemployment lines, during the recession Jason mentions. I was young then, but as shitty as it was, things have changed for the worse in the last few decades. We could still hope for unionized manufacturing jobs back then. Now? Its all a matter of how much you enjoy flipping burgers. Of course, like Joe says, you apparently have to be literate to do so. Or worse: computer literate.

  5. This is as close to a “real” poem as I’ll write. . . meaning no surreal imagery or dream stretches. . . I guess because it really happened to me and was completely sobering. I actually first wrote this in 2007, but it obviously is still relevent in Michigan today. Joe, I agree with you on all fronts. I didn’t focus on that aspect because really this is just my personal account of not being impressed by suffering.
    Quasi… you don’t know what a brownstone is? Do they have them in the South? Thx for the comments.

  6. “Brownstone is a brown Triassic sandstone which was once a popular building material. The term is also understood to be a terraced house (rowhouse) clad in this material.” -Wikipedia- Ok, so it’s short for the rowhouses. cool. Those are pretty damn neat. Speaking of neatness, a British friend of mine used to live nearby in a flat-roofed house built that was once designed by an architect for he and his family back in the 70’s. It had a basement! It was the only house i’ve been to in the South that had a basement. It also had a sunken living room, a sunlit reading room, an island fireplace, and many other little points of uniqueness that i loved.
    But getting back to the poem, yeah, unemployment sucks. It is also a major cause of depression among people when they are laid-off or their factory closes down, or even if they are fired.

  7. Brownstone… hmmm… “I used to do a little, but the little wouldn’t do it, so the little got mo’ & mo’, just keep tryin’ to get a little better, said a little better than before…”
    A brownstone is something you dance with, I think.

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