I never wanted to save no one except everybody and then myself when I was stuck behind that thick plastic parents taped over leaky windows in winter to keep expensive heat from spillin’ out. All this poorness in my house and in the old front yard with no grass and the dirt on the bottom of the door and then my shoes, ‘being told by girls with clean hands and ankles that I was probably called “the poor.” And I was… Clean girls with hair the colour of the sun laughing like they were all good and pretty, and me, I just kept stuffin my awful tongue to the back of my throat while I watched them act like they were nothing at all like me and my kind. Bitter tasting teeth rotting in their heads cause they didn’t have the money to get them pulled out. Other kids poor like me, I mean, and all I wanted to own was the other girls’ yellow hair. Acted like they had permission to rule the world and believe in the tooth fairy all at the same time cause they had yellow hair. Those other ones. I just stayed inside my house and looked outside a lot.
I was a good behaving child, and I still am the same colour of white but probably not one of the poor because now I go to school so I have learned. Nobody’s gonna laugh out loud at me. I still don’t wanna save no one except myself and then my sisters. Maybe my mother too–god damn mind scrambled up like runny eggs with the stress of not knowing where’s the food coming from?… Trusting god to keep his end of the bargain concerning her babies and all that, but he never did. She stayed on her knees for him, anyway, ’cause she loves men more than anybody. She didn’t know Jesus was a Jew. She thought he was just the son of another white man and I think that’s mainly why she trusted him.
Were’t no faviours being done me or my sisters on the welfare so I turned my back on these things and I got up from my dirty knees knowing, for sure, that you just can’t eat the marble staircase in the pope’s mansion cause he’s gonna order you straight to jail before he’s ever gonna take you into his fine kitchen and feed you warm gingerbread.
You think the poor’s prayers matter? Keeping our eyes on the heavens beyond while our stomachs ache and our minds go scrambled with the ugliness and hatred of this world? Social Services people putting their clean, organized little fingers in to rearrange our world while they trample us good because they need us to be us so they can be them. Ha! They don’t fool me. “Stand here,” I wanna say to them.” Stand, here, at the end of this food line letting all them ‘others’ who are hungry, tired and sick of the world’s shame go before you… you know what I’m saying to you? Serve something besides yourself.”
It was my father who sat on the foot of my bed right beside my window with the thick plastic taped around it the day they took his car away because he used his money all up to feed us. God damn, it was an arrow to my child’s heart, and when he said it, he just said it straight as a line to me like I was gonna understand it exactly like he meant it without bursting into crying, myself: He told me, ” I’m really gonna miss the old car, Carole” – his eyes burnng with hidden shame I wasn’t supposed to see; his skin all parched and pale like he’d done something wrong and that was why it all turned out so bad.
Right then and there I told myself that i was gonna stand up to that god awful pope and to every clean little girl who ever thought she could rule the world, and to every foul mouthed lying social service worker who ever came our way because you don’t do that to the poor long as I’m livin’ among your dead. If it was the last bloody thing I ever got to do on this earth I told myself I was gonna do it cause you don’t do that to the poor long as I’m living among your dead.