Mr. Hardtime

by Dee Allen

One afternoon, around

My high school days,

Grandma Lillie

Took time away from

Sewing clothes and talk show

On daytime TV to tell

My little brother and me

An important tale

About a guest

Who often came

Uninvited. Hard to predict his moves—

Being a teen-aged girl

And young mother in

The Great Depression of the 1930s,

She already knew

The guest personally,

As did her sister Vivian, her daddy

Lonnie and Lucy, her mama.

In those days, there wasn’t one person

Standing in a bread-line or begging the next

Brother for a thin dime who hadn’t met

Mister Hardtime.

If you have

No bread in the bread-box,

No fresh or frozen food in the refrigerator,

No boxed or canned food in the cupboard,

No coins filling up the Mason jar,

No dollars filling up your wallet,

No way to pay

The rent or

Clean your clothes,

Best believe

That’s when

Mister Hardtime

Comes for a house call,

Knocking on your door,

Counting on your

Despair, answering him.

Let Mister Hardtime in

And those hard times

Last longer.


May Day 2018