by James C. Henderson

When you’re laid off, the economy pulls over
to the side of the road and asks you to get out.
Left behind, you dare not speak of what has happened.
When neighbors talk of taking vacations
you say you’ve just been.
When friends talk of moving into a bigger house
or of sending their child to college
you say you’re scaling back
waiting to see what will happen in the market.
Meanwhile, you wake without the alarm clock
only to remember the building you’re going to
has a lock on the door.
The morning becomes pointless;
the afternoon stretches on without purpose.
Businesses come and go, succeed and fail
the reasons are multifarious
but somehow you feel it was something
you did or didn’t do.
You sit in a park in the heat of midday
in the incessant buzz of insects
and ask yourself, did I work hard enough?
Did I make the crucial, fatal decision?
Surely, I should have seen it coming.
Why didn’t I say something earlier?
Even if you were a welcomed child
now, unable to contribute, you only disappoint.
You find yourself competing for jobs with kids half your age
turned down for being over-qualified.
You see yourself striking out degrees and accomplishments
from your resume, lessening yourself, denying experience.
After a time your unemployment insurance runs out.
You’re dropped from the rolls of the jobless.
Gaps in your resume appear that you can’t spin.
Then you see it as denying yourself, not to yourself
but to the world, and you feel better.
You laugh at your loyalty to the old company
but you wouldn’t trade it for anything.
For the first time, you know the happiness of just being born.
You sit by a field bathed in sunshine that does not judge.
You watch the woods fill with shadows in evening.
And you ask yourself, what was it I wanted?
Who was it I meant to be?