I stayed home today by John C. Mannone


I stayed home today pretending

to be sick, or that my car was

broken, but the truth is I am

broke with just enough gas for a one way

trip to the city. I understand

better the concept

of living paycheck to paycheck.

It’s early March with daffodils pushing

the winter dirt off their leaves;

bright petals perfume the air,

but they don’t know about the hard

frost coming tonight. Do they

feel pain? Just as my life was flowering,

there’s a chilling air, a lingering winter.

I understand about single moms

working three jobs to make sure there’s food

for their daughters, but still not enough

for a new bra or for the insurance

money for the car, which they had to hide

from time to time from repossessors.

Or when the lights get cut off in the middle

of winter, and they are forced to buy

into a compromising situation. They had nothing

else to sell.

I understand about old men

counting change to buy a cup of coffee

but leaving their last dollar for that single mom

waitress at the Waffle House on a late night shift

and winking at her, but being grumpy

at the price-gouging gas pump. Sometimes

the Social Security doesn’t come in on time,

well, it does, but the bills come faster.

It’s a good thing old men don’t eat much

while helping out their sons and daughters

also struggling with legalized loan sharks

who thrive with sharp credit card teeth,

who prey on old men. They are wholly

committed to extortion of our last cent

and any dignity we might have had.

Yes, I understand about single moms

and lonely old men looking for some sweet

conversation while raking their forks

over scrambled eggs & toast and waiting

for a break, a chance to recover from a falling

dollar, for that answer to an over prayed prayer,

and perhaps for a simple hug that lasts.

John C. Mannone has poetry in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review and others. He won the coveted Appalachian Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) and served as celebrity judge (National Federation of State Poetry Societies, 2018). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and others. He’s a retired physics professor living in Tennessee.