by Lisa Marguerite Mora HEART ALCHEMY

Poverty Gave Me A Spark Of Knowing Deep Within Me


Poverty, amorphous mishmash of images tangled in my brain, synapses that over-fire, dendrites of my nervous system. Why would I want to disentangle and examine? Because someone asked me to: Poverty.

Forty years ago living with cockroaches who seem really fast and really smart. One waves its tentacle (at me) freaks me out because I can see there is intelligence there. It wants what I want. To be left alone. To survive.

No light in the refrigerator.
And nothing in said refrigerator, just gray steel rungs and an icebox that needs defrosting.
Nothing in the narrow yellow kitchen cupboard.
Not even the heel of the proverbial loaf of bread.

No encyclopedias. No bookshelves.
But I have a library card.
And I use it.
All the time.

Armholes of my dress too tight, hem too short,
so I don’t go to school for a week because am ashamed.
By the next week I’m over it.

No car. Walk everywhere or I take the bus.
No “vacations.”
No Girl Scouts or family picnics. Or summer camp.
No going to the movie theater. But there’s television until the tube burns out.

I never see a doctor.
I never see a dentist.
I do get some sort of funding when I become legally blind at age 12
so I can get eyeglasses to see the chalkboard.

Canned food.
Food stamps.

I sleep on a foam mattress on the floor until I outgrow
the floorspace. Then I sleep on the couch.
No warm coat. Hand me down coat from a cousin.
It’s not warm either.
I wear sneakers all the time.
They get soaked in the rain.

I’m used to being cold.
I’ve stopped being hungry.
I stop wanting.

But there is love and the ocean so close to my door.
The waves buoy me over all difficulty, cradle me
teach me I will never drown.
And there is music and picture books of art. And singing
and an avenue of gardens that are replete with something the same thing
as the kitchen cockroach, but with no fear.

And cats who congregate around me silently in the twilight, so many
that I frighten the neighbors because they do not understand
but I am beginning to understand
where true poverty resides. And it is not here. Not with me.
Not where it counts.

And I hold that spark of knowing deep within me and I shield it from the world
lest the fire break out
before its time.

For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends I Wrote This For You.

Sip a little more:

Rebel Rebel, Give Yourself Permission To Be Your Messy Self


Lisa Marguerite Mora

Lisa Marguerite Mora has won prizes for poetry and fiction. She conducts workshops and offers literary services at Work published includes Rattle, Literary Mama, Public Poetry Series, California Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, Rebelle Society, The Urban Howl, Serving House Journal, a Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Prize, and in 2017 First Place winner Micro Fiction for Dandelion Press the artwork of Lori Preusch, and the 14th Moon Prize for Writing in a Woman's Voice. Shopping around a first novel, she has caught the attention of top agents. Life Mantra — I think grief changes us and if we've had a lot of it in a short period of time it takes our vitality before it gives it back, because as we learn to walk with the losses, it deepens our experience of life. And I like life, and to write (one novel under my belt and a bunch of poetry) as well as help other writers. My favorite places to do anything is by the ocean, in the woods, or between the pages of a book.

  1. Lisa,your words always touch me to tears.
    You are one of the richest people I know. Your soul sings.

  2. Tanya Markul

    This is beautiful and I felt it deeply. Thank you.

  3. Lisa, for anyone who has known poverty, you’ve nailed it. For those who don’t, you’ve opened a window on life. Not many people can do that with so few words. Thank you for sharing your beautifully guarded flame.

  4. Your poem is beautiful, and painful, and hopeful, and touches me deeply.
    Thank you, Lisa.

    • Thank you, Robin. Appreciate your taking the time to read it, and your words x

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