In fifth grade, I’d stand for hours on Saturday mornings,
in damp hand-me-down clothes as the drizzle clouds
flowed through Portland streets, waiting for a five pound brick
of government cheese, baby formula, diapers, beans, and cornmeal.
Monday to Friday, I’d walk a mile to school, rain or shine,
to eat the free breakfast, the canned fruit medley, powdered eggs, milk
and the free lunch, the salisbury steak, hot dogs, institutionalised pizza,
Supper’s baby formula and corn meal mush glued to our ribs,
to smother our bellies’ tears, to muffle their weeping from
having to be buried in the same old shit as the day before.
All the while dad worked sometimes two full time shifts
to keep this decaying roof, these rotting walls up around us,
blocking out the winter, so we wouldn’t have to huddle
in the back of the old car, warmed by stale breath and blankets.
The floor beneath the Christmas tree was naked in the flashing
red and green lights strung between plastic branches,
while the stockings hung unfed, crucified by thumb tacks
to cracked barren walls, to pollinate the truth that Santa Reagan
doesn’t give a fuck for children nurtured in poverty.
© September, 2017-Windfall A Journal of Poetry of Place