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
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
and completely out of prayers

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

James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (2018, Indolent Books) and editor of the forthcoming anthology What Keeps us Here: Songs from The Other Side of Trauma. In 2016 he founded the online literary arts and music journal Anti-Heroin Chic to provide a platform for often unheard voices, including those struggling with addiction, mental illness and Prison/confinement. He resides in upstate New York, in between balanced rocks and horse farms. He has never believed in anything as strongly as he does the power of poetry to help heal a shattered life. Read other articles by James.