The Paper Sea

by Leslie Fish

from the album,
FIRESTORM- Songs of the Third World War
I went to work for welfare
in hopes to help the poor.
The staff showed me a desk
and introduced me to the war.
They warned me that the battle
started right outside the door
and they fought it on
The Paper Sea.
There were thirty social workers,
fourty-seven clerks,
Twenty-seven managers
all gumming up the works-
Three inspectors from the ledgislator
exercising perks-
Berakudas in
The Paper Sea.
There were countless regulations,
rulebooks by the score
explaining every policy
and system tried before.
The money spent on paperwork
left nothing for the poor
abandoned on
The Paper Sea.
There were seven hundred forms
'could be applied to every case
to account for every
penny, number, name or date or place.
The clerks were working overtime
but never keeping pace
with the waves upon
The Paper Sea.
Why these endless papers,
administers and more?
All to gaurantee
there was no cheating by the poor.
While for every dollar saved,
we spent a hundred on the chore
of adding to
The Paper Sea.
Outside in the hallway
the poor folk had to wait.
The line streched down the block-
coming early, leaving late.
Maybe one poor soul per hour
ever made it through the gate-
past the boundrys of
The Paper Sea.
First came in a man
who didn't have a cent.
I filled out twenty forms
to gaurentee his check was sent.
By the time it reached his address
he was gone for lack of rent,
Well serviced by
The Paper Sea.
Next came in a mother
abandoned by her man.
She said, "Get me some day care"
"And I'll find what work I can."
But day care was to controversial
for our family plan.
We marrooned her in
The Paper Sea.
As I walked in one morning
I stumbled on an arm
attached to some poor body
who had clearly come to harm.
While waiting for his Medicare
his heart had bought the farm-
We had drowned him in
The Paper Sea.
I told my supervisor.
He said, "Let's be descrete."
"Just sneek the body out the door
and leave it on the street."
"And then it's not our problem,
but the cops out on the beat,
Let's dump him in
Their Paper Sea."
I tried to make the system work.
I tried to help the poor.
I struggled through the paperwork
and might have taken more
but that's the final straw
that sent me screeming out the door.
Sent me running from
The Paper Sea,
I'd had it with
The Paper Sea.