The Poverty of Growing Up

I was a child of sawdust
and pixies cassettes
sing alongs
of Luka and Fast Car
and we stood at the edge
of the southern highway
waiting for salvation to descend
cheese, flour, honey
in boxes and bags on my mother’s lap
father mans the wheelchair
I’m too young to know
how against us the world really is

my people were all sweat
bad backs, deep addictions
and nothing to show for it

poverty was a name that I learned
to move around in my mouth
slowly
like the sad decline of my father
the wild
worn out of him
piece by broken piece

nothing ever trickled down
and further ahead I could smell
the dusty miles adding up
walking with my dad from factory
to factory,
too dark skinned
too yankee
too out of place
to ever be hired
on the spot

“Fuck Reagan”
my father muttered under his breath
Dead Kennedys stuck inside of a broken walkman
me on his shoulders
and the whole world almost in flames

that night
like all the others
I went to bed hungry
scared
and completely out of prayers

by age ten
I had lost all faith
in the order of things.

JAMES DIAZ is the founding editor of the literary arts & music journal Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently in HIV Here & Now, Foliate Oak, Chronogram, and Apricity. His first book of poems, This Someone I Call Stranger, is forthcoming from Indolent Books (2017.) Read other articles by James.