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The inferior man
Sat in his inferior store
A little hole in the wall
On a narrow street
Crowded with people and cars
He sold bits of chewing gum
Scraped of the floor
For pennies
Broken in half or more.
Sitting behind his counter
In that Christian defiance of meekness
He could not say no to any request
And thus he suffered
When they blew up bug balloons in his store
Forcing him to squeeze in and to squeeze out his breath.
At home
In contrast
He ruled with a Moslem fist
Demanding total obedience.
Whenever he was told
To buy silver-wrapped gum
He nodded his head
As if to say yes
Yet sat there
A bit unshaved
With a bitter taste
Formed on his lips
And with his eyes
Half shut from suspicion.
When a customer came to buy
From his unpainted
Deeply darkened store
Which he knew to be
Like his soul
Not worth a farthing,
He smirked
At their naiveté

Irwin R. Shaw - May 14th 1983