20 CANS A DOLLAR

ELAINE MARIE KOLB

20 cans, a dollar,
40 cans makes two,
400 cans makes twenty bucks,
So, what’s a can to you?
To me, it pays for shelter,
And clothes from the Good Will,
Soon, I”ll need a winter coat,
At night, I feel the chill.

I used to have a decent job,
A family and a car,
But, then, I got to drinking,
I went from bar to bar,
So, when I finally sobered up,
I was all alone,
My family had all left me,
And I lost the family home.

My mom & I are homeless,
With my little sister, Sue,
For awhile, we lived in our old car,
But, then, that broke down, too,
There is no family shelter,
For many miles around,
So, we’re trying to raise the money,
For a ticket to another town.

I used to have three children,
Two girls, and then a boy,
While my kids were with me,
They were my pride & joy,
I had a nervous breakdown,
The State took them away,
That was twenty years ago,
I miss them every day.

I started young by sniffing glue,
and then, I smoked some pot,
Soon, I started selling,
So, I tried whatever I got,
Before too long, I was busted,
I did my time in jail,
The place was rough, I almost died,
But, I lived to tell the tale.

I used to be a peddler,
I sold things, door to door,
But, then I got arthritis,
Couldn’t do that anymore,
Now, when I try to get a job,
They all say I’m too old,
I’m too young for Social Security,
So, I’m out here, in the cold.

Although I am disabled,
I’ve been working, here & there,
So, they won’t pay for my medicines,
And I don’t thing that’s fair,
They punish us for trying,
They kick us, when we’re down,
They laugh at us & threaten us,
And run us out of town.

My boyfriend beat me bloody,
and so, I ran away,
I’m terrified he’ll find me,
I live from day to day,
I’m hiding in the shadows,
‘Cause I’m fearful of the light,
That’s why I’m in your garbage,
In the middle of the night.

I know I should stop smoking,
I hack & cough & wheeze,
But, If you could spare a cigarette,
I’d be mighty thankful, please,
I’ve got three bucks for the shelter,
I had a nice, big lunch,
I’m still a fiend for that nicotine,
Hey, buddy, thanks a bunch.

At least I have my service dog,
With me & my wheelchair,
The shelter’s not accessible,
And I can’t keep my dog there,
Yes, I know it’s all illegal,
It’s against the ADA,
If I survive, I’ll sue them,
But, I have to live today.
——————————————-

Passing Her By

frail and pathetic
she sat on a broken stool
guarding the street corner
and I thought
here is someone I can help
but her nails wore the debris
from many days of scavenging
and they clutched a tattered blanket
tied with a string around her waist
and I thought i might offend her
dressed in high heeled shoes
and sunday best
and I turned my eyes the other way
as I sidled past
looking in store windows ignoring her
and I knew i had added yet another dent
to her battered self esteem
as she wondered silently
why someone dressed as fine as I
would rather look in cold windows
than simply walk by
and say hello

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