Welfare Street

from by Cameron Blake

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Welfare Street describes some of the scenarios associated with the welfare state- rural poverty, disabled workers, dishonest politicians, the inner city, etc. It’s been said that you can’t really understand a person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. I can’t pretend that I understand either but my very grappling with the issue led me to write this seven-verse poem (later set to music). It took me a long time to capture this song in the studio and just when I was about to give up, it arrived in a complete take at 11:30 p.m. on the final day of recording.

lyrics

I surrendered when you told me
I’m just another mouth to feed
Told to leave the table like a beggar at the feast
The holler’s been on fire, its’ vulgar sound is sweet
But there ain’t no traitors living out here on Welfare Street

My iron-tasting lady clipped it from a magazine
It said that they were hiring for 500 a week
I used to be a tradesman; at least I used to be
But now I’m just a cripple out here on Welfare Street

I’ve towed the party lines and they both pretend to be
A place where Connie’s junkyard
Is rubbing elbows with the bourgeoisie
They’re written from the towers of well-oiled machines
There’s no cocaine on holidays out here on Welfare Street

His tennis shoes are hanging
You can see them through the trees
Folding under pressure like a clover in the breeze
He still defies the lightening running at top speed
Chasing down the bullet out here on Welfare Street

The fire hydrant’s opened
It’s ninety-nine degrees
Watching the toddlers soak each other in their whitey-tighties
Oh, there’s beauty on this river, a rainbow on the stream
We’re all just friendly neighbors out here on Welfare Street

But you don’t join the celebration
Because it’s not what you believe
The fence has gotten higher from the falling GNP
And what’s the point of working when everything is free?
Isn’t that the way it functions out here on Welfare Street?

My vision’s growing dim
It fails in empathy
I’ve never stayed the night
I’ve never even held the key
In fact, I lack all understanding with my graduate degree
I’m simply middle class and anxious out here on Welfare Street

credits

from Alone On The World Stage, released March 16, 2015

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Cameron Blake Grand Rapids, Michigan

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