Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Bread Line

By Berton Braley

(Contemporary American poet)
WELL, here they are—they stand and stamp and shiver
  Waiting their food from some kind stranger hand,
Their weary limbs with eagerness a-quiver
  Hungry and heartsick in a bounteous land.
“Beggars and bums?” Perhaps, and largely worthless.        5
  Shaky with drink, unlovely, craven, low,
With obscene tongues and hollow laughter mirthless;
  But who shall give them scorn for being so?
Yes, here they are—with gaunt and pallid faces,
  With limbs ill-clad and fingers stiff and blued,        10
Shuffling and stamping on their pavement places,
  Waiting and watching for their bit of food.
We boast of vast achievements and of power,
  Of human progress knowing no defeat,
Of strange new marvels every day and hour—        15
  And here’s the bread line in the wintry street!
Ten thousand years of war and peace and glory,
  Of hope and work and deeds and golden schemes,
Of mighty voices raised in song and story,
  Of huge inventions and of splendid dreams;        20
Ten thousand years replete with every wonder,
  Of empires risen and of empires dead;
Yet still, while wasters roll in swollen plunder,
  These broken men must stand in line—for bread!

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