Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps

By Sheryl Luna

Words fall out of my coat pocket,

soak in bleach water. I touch every one’s

dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.

Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.

No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:

trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.

I am hourly protestations and false smiles.

The clock clicks its slow slowing.

Faces blur in a stream of hurried soccer games,

sunlight and church certainty. I have no

poem to carry, no material illusions.

Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,

I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,

refineries and a border’s barbed wire,

but I am unlearning America’s languages

with a mop. In a summer-hot red

polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas

billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.

A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe

spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.

Visionaries off their meds and wacked out

meth-heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery

and humiliation drips with my sweat.

Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise. 

I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man

head-butting his wife in the parking lot.

911: no metered aubade, and nobody but

myself to blame.