The First Wages

“More! More! I want some more!”
The tiny voice would’ve gone unheard.
I turned to meet an outstretched hand,
a scruffy face and a head full of sand.

I stared down at the beggar child.
His eyes danced, his lips smiled.
His little fingers lined with dirt
held lightly the folds of my shirt.

‘Be gone!” said I, “So unsatisfied.”
The amount I’d given was justified!
Not one extra coin would I disburse
to this depraved lad, this curse!

I glared into his eyes again.
I hoped to see fear, even shame.
But my outburst had been in vain.
His beaming smile did not change.

Instead, in a voice crystal clear,
he spoke to me and I did hear.
“I’m all alone – Oh! Please, please!”
The winds and cold do not cease.

There was a time when I had known
warm caresses – my mother’s own.
And long past the twilight hours,
she’d tell me all about the stars.

She left me all alone one day,
and as she was going – did say,
““Let not the hunger and the cold
make you beg, or sell your soul.

Look for work and you will find
in the fields – something to bind,
or in the big, busy marketplace-
if you work hard, it will pay.

Do not fear for me, my son!
Not far from you will I be gone.
When people tell you I have died,
look for the new star in the sky.””

And so, it’s not alms that I want,
Just a little fare for the “2 Down.”
No more moments I must waste
if I want a job at the marketplace.

Not more than a 2 rupee coin
for the new job I have to join!
But this you will not do for free,
your heavy basket I shall carry.”

I looked down at him again.
His eyes now held only pain.
His proud chin, turned up high,
so full of hope – this little boy.

And every word he said was true.
He was his own living proof.
Undefeated by life’s miseries yet,
he was just like the black cygnet.

And, along with me he did hurry.
My blue basket, for me did carry.
“Here’s the coin! Now rest a while!”
And I saw again – that beautiful smile.

4 thoughts on “The First Wages

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