How Things Work

By Gary Soto b. 1952 Gary Soto
Today it’s going to cost us twenty dollars
To live. Five for a softball. Four for a book,
A handful of ones for coffee and two sweet rolls,
Bus fare, rosin for your mother’s violin.
We’re completing our task. The tip I left
For the waitress filters down
Like rain, wetting the new roots of a child
Perhaps, a belligerent cat that won’t let go
Of a balled sock until there’s chicken to eat.
As far as I can tell, daughter, it works like this:
You buy bread from a grocery, a bag of apples
From a fruit stand, and what coins
Are passed on helps others buy pencils, glue,
Tickets to a movie in which laughter
Is thrown into their faces.
If we buy a goldfish, someone tries on a hat.
If we buy crayons, someone walks home with a broom.
A tip, a small purchase here and there,
And things just keep going. I guess.

Gary Soto, “How Things Work” from Black Hair (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985). Copyright © 1985 by Gary Soto. Reprinted with the permission of the author, www.garysoto.com.

Source: Black Hair (1985)

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Poet Gary Soto b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Youth, Living, Activities, Social Commentaries

 Gary  Soto

Biography

Gary Soto is known for a body of work that deals with the realities of growing up in Mexican-American communities; in poems, novels, short stories, plays and over a two dozen books for young people, Soto has recreated the world of the barrio, the urban, Spanish-speaking neighborhood where he was raised, bringing the sights, sounds and smells vividly to life within the pages of his books. Soto’s poetry and prose focus on everyday . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Youth, Living, Activities, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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