sal(i)vation bell


i’ve been wanting to ring the bell at christmas for the Salvation Army for years.  this is a poem about rejection by them.

sal(i)vation bell

going to the walmart to cash my inability check
on a winter’s day
i stop like one of pavlov’s dogs by the sal(i)vation bell

yeah i saw their ads on television
where i could extract the lucre
it’s for a good cause and ringing the bell
for an hour in the cold
would do me good or so i thought

so i ask the man:
“can i ring the bell?”

he says his manager will be back in twenty minutes
i can ask him
so i go inside to extract the lucre
from my inability check
and maybe feed a little bit to the sal(i)vation bell people.

my head is humming
at the thought of all the cold hard cash
pouring in the pot
as i stand in line at the service bay
thinking about ringing the bell

it’s for a good cause and
ringing the bell for an hour in the cold
would do me good

so i collect my lucre and go outside
to ask the man
and when i get to the sal(i)vation bell
the manager is emptying the pot

so i ask the man:
“can i ring the bell?”

and he says:
“you’ll have to go downtown and fill out an application”

hmmm
what do i look like? look at me
one of pavlov’s hungry dogs
who wants just once to ring the bell
and they want me to fill out an application
to stand out in the cold
ringing the sal(i)vation bell
and i look like the guy who ate the receipts
but i’m not
and i thank the man and drop a jackson into the bucket
and wonder what has become of me

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