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.
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