They have us corralled
in the basement of the courthouse.
One desk and a row of folding chairs—
just like first grade, our desks facing Teacher
in neat little rows.
wooden benches like pews and red
carpet reserved for those who’ve held out
the longest. No creditors have come to claim us
today. We’re small-time.
This guy from the graveyard shift
stares at his steel-toed boots, nervous hands
in his lap. None of us look each other
in the eye. We steal quick looks—how did you
get here. . .
chemo bills, a gambling addiction,
a summer spent unemployed and too many
cash advances to pay the rent.
We examine the pipes that hang
from the ceiling, the scratched tiles on the floor,
the red glow of the exit sign at the end of the hall
so like our other failed escapes:
light of the TV at night,
glass of cheap Merlot beside a lamp,
a stop light on the way out of town.
from: Blue Collar Review, Vol. 12, Issue 2, Winter 2008-2009. Copyright 2008.