William Reichard, age 5
Untitled Story (Poor)
by William Reichard

The shuttered bar’s wall collapses, falls into the Laundromat.
Dirty clothes for days and nowhere to wash the oversized blankets,
the heavy quilts stitched from remnants of Grandmother’s dresses.
Winter is coming so they get out the lath and heavy plastic.
I knew families who lived like that, broken windows patched
with canvas tarps, frozen breath forming clouds in the unheated kitchen.
I knew families who depended on the meat their men would hunt
each autumn. No game meant nothing to eat, shame-faced trips
to the food shelves. A semblance of strength trumped the cries
of a hungry child, and I would see those kids in the school hallways,
pale and thin, lacking breakfast and focus. I was one of those kids,
could always spot my kind, missing dead fathers, mothers
eaten up by poor pay at local factories. Someone might ask:
how poor are you? But you could not say, not to teachers,
not to friends. Silence equaled strength, the ability to deny yourself
everything. Those houses are empty now, bankrupt or abandoned,
farmsteads unable to support any family. I see them on my way
to visit my elderly mother. The animals take over, and trees grow up
through kitchen floors. Upper bedrooms become apiaries, full of birds
and owls that eat the birds, and bats sequestered in every corner.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age five.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in poverty, and that’s had an indelible impact on my life and my writing. I’ve tried, over the years, to address this experience as best I can. Those of us who’ve endured poverty tend to carry it with us for the rest of our lives. It’s always there, like a quiet ghost, ready to speak.

reichardABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Reichard is the author of four poetry collections. His new chapbook, As Breath in Winter, will be published by MIEL Press in June 2015, and his next full-length collection, Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, will be published by Broadstone Books in spring 2016.