by Lauren Numeroff

You stare down at her virgin,
soft, tiny hands,
Untouched by evil,
drugs, and pain.
Yearning for her life, freedom,
Or just $2 to buy ice cream after school.
Her eyes burn your flesh,
eyes too young to know poverty.
You mutter a muted apology,
Ruthless, ashamed.
She turns away,
lying,
she understands,
Mommy, your partner,
who you swore yourself to,
“In sickness and health,
For richer or poorer,”
She reaches into the cookie tin
and her hand emerges with a couple of paper bills,
Those empty paper scraps which run your life.
She brushes the hair out of the eyes
of the child you share,
and shoves the bills into her little jacket pocket.
All the while, giving you this look,
This look that further implies
what a failure you are.
You grab your tattered leather briefcase,
filled with nothing you were educated for,
The only trace of your education lies in those envelopes,
Opened with inept hands,
and stuffed in that briefcase your mom bought you when you graduated.
Your student loans,
Naturally,
Unpaid.

You face the back of a turbaned head,
He turns to you,
and raises an eyebrow as he notices your beat-up Volkswagon outside.
“$17.50 for the gas. Would you like anything else?”
Of course you do.
Of course you don’t.
You open your torn wallet and shell out twenty dollars
To feed your car and your nicotine desiring blood.
You think of your daughter,
And her ice cream.
You pack your Reds and bring one to your lips.
The precious fire lights your drug,
And one lonely tear appears at the corner of your eye.
Inhaling, you let the contaminated blood trickle,
down, down, down.
You bury your face in your hands
Being careful not to singe your lashes with your
Smoke.