for anyone who has ever said
people are poor because they’re lazy
On any given day in Southern California,
coming off any freeway,
you’ll see a veteran with a sign reading,
“Fallen hero here, needs money or shelter
to be considered human again”.
Because once society puts ‘homeless’
equality is measured in dollar signs.
Even when the veteran is ‘fallen’
can they still be called a ‘hero’
when that hero is a woman
selling oranges on street corners
just to keep her children from starving?
I was 20 the first time I understood
the word ‘starving’.
Starving is what happens when
God doesn’t hear your mother’s
prayers to keep her children from begging.
Starving is what happens when your
family has only enough money to choice
between eating for a day
and not being slapped with an eviction notice.
Starving is what happens your voice rings out
like dry chicken bones rattling
in a licked-clean tin can
when you and your mother have
to go dumpster diving to see your next meal.
Starving is your chest reading like a cardboard sign:
When you are this hungry every day,
the world shifts out of focus.
The fridge looks likes a skeleton
that hasn’t known its own stomach in years
and your body is eating itself backwards just to survive.
Because we all just want the chance to survive.
My mother and I found refuge in soda cans
in beer bottles
In whole meals our neighbors tossed
because they expired yesterday
and but what we really found diving is
humanity sometimes does not
mean having a salesman smile or
being a pressed suit
but it lies in the struggle,
the will to live every day
So some days when a man in a dollar store parking lot,
when a man plays me a song on his rusted trumpet,
a man in a gas station approaches me for some change
I hand it to him and I say,
“You are the most human because
you are not any less for needing
but because you are more for being this brave”.