Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps

By Sheryl Luna Sheryl Luna
Words fall out of my coat pocket,
soak in bleach water. I touch everyone’s
dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.
Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.
No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:
trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.
I am hourly protestations and false smiles.
The clock clicks its slow slowing.
Faces blur in a stream of  hurried soccer games,
sunlight, and church certainty. I have no
poem to carry, no material illusions.
Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,
I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,
refineries, and a border’s barbed wire,
but I am unlearning America’s languages
with a mop. In a summer-hot red
polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas
billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.
A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe
spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.
Visionaries off their meds and wacked out
meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery
and humiliation drips with my sweat.
Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise.
I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man
headbutting his wife in the parking lot.
911: no metered aubade, and nobody but
myself to blame.

Source: Poetry (April 2014).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2014
 Sheryl  Luna

Biography

Sheryl Luna was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She earned her BA at Texas Tech University, an MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso, an MA in English from Texas Woman’s University, and a PhD in Contemporary Literature from the University of North Texas. Poets & Writers Magazine named Luna as one of the “18 Debut Poets who Made their Mark in 2005.”
 
Luna's first collection of poetry, Pity the Drowned Horses (2004), won . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working, Social Commentaries, Class

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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