Tightrope Walkers

Tightrope Walkers

We are fourth generation on the poverty level

Poverty begets poverty

Too poor for fun but too rich for food stamps

Too broke to have a decent car, and if it breaks we can’t fix it

Please God, don’t let it break

The gas furnace works, and burns hot in the living room, but doesn’t reach the back rooms

And cannot burn hot enough to warm my icy fear

Too poor for band camp, so we don’t sign up

The teacher calls, a day late, with a scholarship offer- she’s first chair, after all

But camp is full so she can’t go

Too poor for groceries and the electric bill, so we’ll have to ask the pantry,

the humiliation embraces us, ever present, like a discarded lover

I won’t complain, but I’m tired of freezer burned chicken and canned lima beans

The calendar stretches forever, pay day is always too far away… Didn’t you just get paid?

A cheap birthday ‘party’, a cake from a mix and a promise for a present

They pretend to understand when their friends get trips to Six Flags

Later, always later

Momma and Daddy are getting marriage counseling

Too many hushed ultimatums, tearful regrets, sleepless nights

Preacher says it’s cause they’re not tithing

The shame, ever present, of not making it work

(the elephant in the room)

It’s never enough, never enough

We don’t own an expensive car, or a house in the good neighborhood

The greasy mechanics down the street look at my daughters when they walk home from school

We don’t live above our means, except everything is above our means.

The oldest needs shoes again, and money for a field trip

How do you get money for a field trip when there’s none to get?

And Momma and Daddy work all day long