Cecilia Woloch

The Poor are Always with Us

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My sister’s good friend Bert,
short for Alberta, died this week —
fifty-four, flat broke,
stroked out in a nursing home.
No funeral, no flowers.
But her friends did what they could:
a cardboard casket and a preacher
who said a few words when they buried her.
They put a jar out on the counter
of the store where Bert had worked
more years than anyone could count,
a collection for the cross
someone’s promised to make
out of two-by-fours.
She was a tiny thing, she smoked;
she had a voice like gravel and rusted wire.
My sister says she still can’t cry.
It’s just too pitiful, she says.
This is America, our poor
lie down in soft Kentucky dirt,
or any dirt, they’re just so tired.

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