The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Cecilia Woloch

The Poor are Always with Us


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.




CECILIA WOLOCH has published six collections of poems — most recently Earth, (Two Sylvias Press) —and a novel, Sur la Route (Quale Press). Recent honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Indiana Review Prize for Poetry. She collaborates regularly with artists in other disciplines and conducts workshops for writers around the world. She will be teaching this fall in the creative writing program at Georgia College & State University.



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