Paycheck to paycheck
A poem about poverty
First of the month is the hardest,
because that’s when the rent is due,
that’s when the utilities are due,
that’s when the auto insurance is due.
Dollar menus for fast food
become best friends, one step above
Ramen, turning the human body
into a preservative.
There’s no such thing
as mid-grade gasoline.
The middle of the month is the hardest,
because that’s when
they’ll shut the phone off,
they’ll shut the lights off,
they’ll shut the water off,
they’ll leave an eviction notice
on the door for your kids to find.
Get used to screening those calls,
ignoring the ones from strange area codes,
who leave that space of dead hiss
before they’ll speak,
in case you’re an answering machine.
Get used to reading the medical dictionary
for self diagnosis,
to ignoring that strange lump of flesh
under your armpit,
to checking the box for “uninsured”
on that clipboard in the ER.
The end of the month is the hardest,
because that’s when the food stamps run out,
that’s when nights without sleep
start to add up like overdraft fees at the bank.
That’s when they cut your hours to the minimum,
when the plasma center turns you down,
when the next month is ready to start,
when your legs get tired
and the water starts slipping into your mouth.