Tag Archives: poverty

9 Poems for the Week

my heart is tucked away today. i’m sorry it’s not open for my writing poetry visiting hours.

1:
I met the math teacher,
At native food day up at the senior center.
He’s from nearby, originally,
So he says his a’s like everyone else up here.
There’s an h in there and a little hint of a smile.
You can hear it if they say bag.
He told me smoked fish is the best because it goes really well
With any type of alcohol.
I love it.
The last time I met him,
He was yelling at me,
So this is improvement.

2:
My heart broke over a piece of paperwork.
She had to fill out the reimbursement forms for me,
For the trip we sent her on to Fairbanks.
I couldn’t get her to fill it out.
My supervisor yelled at me.
She who I had hoped would, would, do. Something.
So now it’s a body and a mind that does what needs to be done.
I’m out of this.
Me and my heart and my soul are back in our little corner,
Looking for better long-term cold storage facilities
Who don’t charge high rent.

3:
I told her my standards are really low.
I quoted this passage from a book which talks about how
He wasn’t much, but she’d never seen much of anything, so there was a chance they could be happy.
I said that was pretty much me.
You’re out of bed. You’re clean. You’re not hurting anyone. You’re good in my book.
I’ll not condemn the lazy.
She just looked at me.

4:
And I can tell she’s never been around chronic depression,
Or lived with an alcoholic,
Or an abuser.
I can tell.
She’s that funny kind of clean
Who wants to know the dirt,
And may have seen the dust,
But she’s never stopped caring when it’s covering her hands,
Because it’s been there too long.

5:
I used to always side with the children.
How could a mother do that?
I didn’t realize I had a bias.
Am I older now, to see adults as humans?
As an equal to the child, they’re needs have to matter too.
When did that happen?
When did I put the living above those who have yet to live?

6:
They say the first day of moose season,
Always means bad weather.
The rain came yesterday.
The first moose this morning.

7:
I just spent fifty dollars
On new clothes,
A pair of work pants, a sleep shirt, a blue dress oxford, and a blouse. A red blouse.
I shouldn’t have spent that.
It’s not in my budget.
My budget is titled: Don’t Spend Nothing.
And if I have to pay for heat again this month,
I’ll be two hundred dollars in debt.
And I’ll take out of my savings,
My rocking chair on a wrap-around porch fund,
I worked so hard to build,
I gave up my social life to bank,
Because I decided it was a good idea to volunteer for a year,
For a cause that might be worth it.

8:
We’re having yoga down at the firehall.
Me and my roommate and the woman in town who does community things.
I use the old beat up pink mat that lives in the corner shelf and has rust stains.
We’re doing thirty days of yoga. Or so they say.
A man came yesterday.
Changes the whole dynamic, even though I feel like it shouldn’t.
And my roommate said my side comments were annoying him.
If I’d known I would have said half of what I’d thought,
Instead of quietly trying to not show my ass while downward-dogging into hell.

9:
He asked.
Damn.
I almost escaped.
But he asked,
What are my plans for after my contract finishes here.
And I had to tell the truth.
Damn.
I have no plans.
I could go back to freelancing, if I had to,
Which wouldn’t be a problem.
Will someone tell me what to do please?
That makes me so pathetic.

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10 Poems on Southeast Alaska

i’m changing it up a bit guys, I’m writing on a theme, don’t freak out or nothing.

1:
Most people,
When they move to Alaska,
Talk about how much they miss home,
Because unless you’re born here,
It is never your place.
But I don’t know that I’m going to be able to live somewhere else.
These trees are starting to feel safe, this always-there mist is a welcome sight,
I’m learning the twists of the roads and the potholes,
I recognize who owns each truck.
And familiarity is a comfort,
A comfort like home.

2:
They tolerate me, because I want nothing from them.
Not their money, or their land, or their men.
But, in a place like this, that would turn so fast,
If I got pregnant, if I brought an STD here that isn’t already,
If I tried to stay, on my own,
If I thought for just one minute I belonged.

3:
No one is talking about the rape rates of small town Alaska.
It’s not rape,
If they’re married, or if they’re together.
Unless it’s a stranger breaking into someone’s house,
Then it counts.
There aren’t any kits here.
And, it’s common,
Unimportant,
The worst kind of ubiquitous.

4:
Let’s stay dark,
These women are overweight, like scary overweight,
It might be better for their self-confidence that way,
Lord knows, they’re not judging me, for once, which is nice.
But they’re going to die early, and leave these kids.
The nurse practitioner here doesn’t ask,
Do you drink?
She asks, how many drinks have you had today?
We’ve had four mothers die from drinking in the past two years. Four out of 500 people.
These clothes have holes in them.
These kids have coughs.
No one has their car registered, or insurance, and they drive without seat belts.
If you get hurt, uninsured, it’s 14,000 dollars in a helicopter to a hospital.
There is no law. We have no cop. We have no volunteer police like we used to.
We have no one to stop you driving drunk with kids in your car.
None of these houses look nice, not on the inside, not on the outside.
All these kids have been hit.
Someone of these kids are inbred.
None of these kids are prepared to do anything but fish,
Or anything else after they’ve finished fishing. They all live at home.
There’s no money here, and no jobs, and the jobs that are here are staffed by outsiders, because the workforce here is a joke.
I’ve seen six-year olds with guns for hunting.
And there’s no goddamn people to care,
Or a reason to care. We’re an island, we’re small, we’re rural, we’re too far away.

5:
The salmon are running.
They taught me there’s five types.
Use your hand to remember,
Pink salmon, like your pinky.
Silver, you wear silver on your ring finger, coho.
King, the best, your tallest, middle finger.
Sock-eye, index finger pokes people, socks you in the eye.
Chum, dog-salmon, thumb sounds like chum.
They’ve all got even more names for each of these,
But this is what I know.

6:
No-see-ums.
The little things that suck your blood, smaller than a mosquito, so you can’t see them.
Fireweed.
Purple plant that lines the road, you can make honey out of it, well more of a syrup.
Salmon berries.
Yellow or red, good to eat, tarter than a raspberry, but sweeter too.
Hudson bay tea.
Plant, brown leaves on one side, smells like Hudson Bay Tea.
Cedar.
I can tell you what cedar smells like now, hundreds of years old.
Clan.
I’ve met people whose ancestors have been here ten thousand years.
Halibut.
Hell of a butt, I’ve eaten this, cooked, while it was still warm coming from the sea.
Whales.
They sound like steel grinding.
Cell-phone service.
You forget it’s not there after a while, out on the roads.

7:
To get here,
I boarded a plane at 5:30 a.m. eastern time after a fifteen minute drive from my parent’s house.
That plane landed in Chicago.
From there I walked across the u-shaped airport to fly to Seattle. Seattle to the capital.
Then via a tiny little seaplane to my island.
That’s my favorite part, flying on the seaplane.
Well, this time it was just a little plane on land,
But you fly over the national forest, over mountains no people have touched, over land, and inlets, and places without fences, water, water, and clouds.
And you know, if this plane goes down, you won’t last.
And there’s just this little tiny, bendable piece of aluminum between you, and what you know will be the most beautiful fall of your life.

8:
I’m slowly learning the history, the stuff I should have looked up on Wikipedia before I came.
About the native population, their story,
The crazy stuff that’s happened, the sadness that’s happened.
And why there are no reservations in Alaska (we’re not counting that tiny Canadian thing)
I’m learning how not to be racist. I’m learning about being a minority.
I’m trying to learn, if I’m not getting anywhere.

9:
The questions I answer people from here.
My name is.
I’m from Indianapolis. That’s in Indiana, about 200 mile south of Chicago.
I’ve been here six months.
I’m liking it pretty well.
Yes, I have an iPhone, so I have cell service.
I live up there in the house with the English teacher.
I work over at the library. I’m here with a national service organization,
The federal government pays me.
Yes, I’ve gone on a loop, and been to the beach.
That’s my little blue car. It’s worth about $2,5000. I had it shipped on AML.
No, I’m sorry, I haven’t met them, I don’t know who that is.
My father is a pastor.
Yes, it was nice to talk to you.

10:
The questions I answer people from home.
Yes, I live in Alaska.
No it doesn’t snow here very much.
It’s actually 60 degrees, sunny, with a light breeze.
I live in Southeast.
That’s the panhandle, it’s about 900 miles north of Seattle, if that helps. That’s roughly the distance of New York City to Jacksonville Florida.
They don’t actually call themselves Eskimos, but Yupiks live farther north.
Russia is closer to the island chain in the west part of Alaska.
Yes, I’ve seen bears, they haven’t bothered me, most people carry a gun, in case.
We’ve got wolves, deer, coyotes, moose and porcupine as well.
Quite a few people drink up here, that’s true.
Food comes in on the ferry or on barge.
There’s a store and a liquor store, a post office, a school, a community center, an old people’s home.
No, I don’t know your mother’s cousin who lived in Alaska for two years in the 70s.
Yes, I like it here.
I don’t know when I’ll be back.

Poems form My Day (8-22-16)

1:
This will probably be the best week of the year.
Do you know what I did today?
I went kayaking for the first time.
I could hear the whales. I could see their water spouts.
I listened to the sea lions yelling at each other.
I have a blister.
I went paddle boarding. I tried to stand up. I felt wobbly.
The water is cold.
I went hiking up the rocks at the point.
I stood on moss that’s been shaded by these trees for hundreds of years.
My boots are still tied.
I applied for my first photography contest.
I sent in my first story query to a magazine.
I ate halibut I saw come in on the line.
I saw it drained. I saw it fileted. I smelled it cook.
I came within ten feet of my first black bear.
We both wanted to watch the sunset.
My heart didn’t beat much faster.
I drove up a mountain all by myself in my little blue car on the one lane black gravel roads.
I picked berries.
I made jam with my own two hands.
I did all that today.
And it’s still not enough.
I still feel lazy.
No matter how close to perfect I become,
That feeling will never go away, will it?
My mother, she calls it the Purtain in us.
That feeling of never doing enough, being enough,
Never being good enough.

2:
I like to imagine which poems Terry Gross will pick out to analyze me
Once I become a famous poet.
And I have a book on shelves somewhere.
Whichever ones she selects will throw daggers at my character.
I like to think she’ll find themes in myself I didn’t know were there.
Then I’ll finally get recognition from my father for all the money he spent educating my brain.
See, Dad, I’m not as smart as my sister, but I can be on NPR, for just being me.

3:
Am I interesting?
I’m not so sure.
I met a programmer who told me I was.
It must be because I moved to Alaska.
Other than that,
I’m a quiet person,
Who prefers to listen to your stories, than tell my own.
I suppose that makes me greedy.

4:
I have so much to say.
I can’t get it all out.
I can’t stop myself from feeling apologetic.
I have to barrel through.
And not think about it.
It’s like singing really loudly in my mind, so I can’t process anything.

5:
She was telling me about the island next to Russia,
Where she used to be.
About how high the domestic violence percentages are there.
There’s not much we can do about it,
Because you can’t go to the clinic, then your Aunt would find out,
And she’d tell your boyfriend.
You can’t tell your Mom, it was her new husband after all.
The cops would have to fly in on a helicopter.
They don’t have rape kits here.
You can’t tell school, you have cousins in your class,
Half of them have your last name.
Outsiders can only hope it will get better, with these new generations.
It makes me wish I was stronger.
Strong enough to do something about it, even though I have no position in the community.

6:
We don’t have cops here.
Our VPSO left.
That means there’s no law.
Not like most followed the rules anyway.
But we’ve got people stealing gas, girls, cedar, and stuff from your car.
And our house still doesn’t have locks.
The troopers take days.
The last time we didn’t have a VPSO,
A girl got killed,
Took two days for them to get here.
Two days.
The community watched over the body.

7:
I’m living below poverty line.
I did the math today,
It was the car payments that nicked me over.
But it was so hard walking to work everyday.
My parents still cover my health insurance,
And I split my cell phone with my sister.
But my rent with gas and utilities is over 60% of my income.
And I’m spending too much on food.
I’m just me. I’m good with money. I have no debt.
What do you do if you have a baby, and you make as little as I do?

Poems from My Day (7-21)

more to come

1:
They wouldn’t cross me, and they’re true.
I’m not friends with the wishy-washy people.
I’m friends with the weirdos.
And I don’t think you understand exactly what that means.
I’m the most traditionally stable of the bunch. We get stared at when we go out.
I won’t make the easy friend.
Not anymore,
My people contemplate suicide on a daily basis, and wax rhapsodic about why they stay alive.
They get tattoos of little hearts that say – “always keep fighting,”
They tell me they stay alive because they don’t want their families sad.
I’ve set up google alerts for their names, deceased.
My red-haired Paul Bunyan, I’ve been watching his twin sister’s facebook, waiting.
I’m friends with the people who will tell me how they’re really feeling, because they’re braver than I am.
Who tell me about their visits to the restaurant brothels of Thailand, who tell me more and more outrageous things, poke me with a stick, see how long it takes me to freak.
But they never judge me. They’ll tell me I’m stupid, that I’m not living up to what I could be, that I should try relaxing.
Thinking about it, the thing they have in common is that they’ve never given me that – you’re crazy look, the one that says – I don’t understand you, you’re weird to me.

2:
Okay Jade,
I figured it out,
You asked about my favorite book, and said I was just like your teacher because I fell in love with things. Now I remember being that age, and not loving anything, and being worried I’d never have hopes or dreams. But I do now.
It’s a book written by the same woman who wrote 101 Dalmatians
About these two sisters before the second war in England.
It was the first time I remember reading something I had experienced. It was so wonderful to see, to read, someone else explain exactly why I felt the way I felt.
She couldn’t bring herself to love the man her sister had her hands on before her.
And these were the silly problems, the problems you got to think about before all the men started dying again.
I couldn’t bring myself to love the man who loved my sister. I had that problem. Just like her.
I remember being just like her.
Just like someone for the first time.

3:
I think I have a dreams now,
I want my cabin in the middle of nowhere that’s within driving distance of a coke slushie machine, it’ll have a wrap-around porch and a rocking chair, and those thick, tapestry like throw blankets. And tea. Lots of tea.
And warm lights, none of these white, fluorescent things.
And I’ll do hospice work, and maybe take in foster kids. And I’ll have books piled everywhere. I’ll be able to make mistakes there. That’s what will be great.

4:
I think that’s true. I think people you can make mistakes in front of, are the best creative partners.
Who you know won’t mock you.
Or who will go along with you on your journeys. Those are the best.
Together, we do good stuff.

5:
I cried when I got the check my father sent me,
And cried harder when the post office lost the next one.
I get frustrated that I can’t qualify for benefits because I have savings.
Then I give up. And say I’ll just live in debt. It’s easier.

6:
I want to say to her, no,
I won’t be jerked around.
You want to be my friend, then be my friend,
Don’t waver in the wind like a pussy.
I’m tired of this.
I’ll give you allowances, here and there, and wiggle room for not knowing me, and feeling uncomfortable, but I have to be around people who are stronger than me, because I need the strength they give.
So, either be here when I need you or get out of my way.

7:
I do so many things poorly, and nothing well.
But if I spent all my time, and had one great accomplishment,
Someone would still do it better.

8:
They gave me a cedar rose and now my jacket smells like campfire smoke and cedar.
My house smells like campfire smoke and cedar.
He used to smell like gasoline.
My couch used to smell like vinegar and yellow Clorox wipes.
If my cold weren’t here I’d smell charred chorizo.

9:
My mother called on my birthday.
She did the thing I love, but have always been to scared to tell her I love,
In case she’ll stop.
She tells me stories about when I was a baby.
And it was just me and her.
About when I was born,
And how pretty I was, and how loved.
Every year it makes me cry, because I like to think of my mother as a person who only causes harm,
But she loves us so much. And sometimes she lets it show through.
And it makes me miss my mom.