One Day At A Time
by David Mathews

     “One Day At A Time”
     Alcoholics Anonymous slogan

I guess we’re leaving
before he gets back home.
I helped my mom look
for change in the couch for the bus.
She grabs my sisters.
I grab the go-quick bag
stashed under the bed
for last minute late-night trips
to grandma’s, friends, or shelters.

The streets at night scare me.
We pass people staggering or swaggering
with booze in paper bags or fighting with women.
Some stare at us. The bus seems to always take forever.

One time, my stepdad drove slowly
as we walked down the street,
in his rusty Dodge Dart,
with a busted muffler,
with his One Day At A Time bumper sticker,
with a plastic St. Christopher on the dash—
first trying to sweet talk
my mom with slurred speech,
then snapping with curses and threats.

Now when we stay hidden
for a few days, I fear hearing
that Dodge’s muffler down the street.

The bus always seemed to take forever.
Today was full of trouble.
What’s tomorrow I don’t know.
I can’t worry about what I can’t control.
All I can do is look for change in the couch,
grab the stashed clothes, and wait for the bus.

But I will always be hearing a broken muffler.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This photo was taken in 1984 with my sister Sarah — back when I was a Cubs fan. That year, the Cubs tanked in the NLCS to the Padres — that was the start of my defection to the White Sox.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was one of my first poems.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Mathews earned his MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University, where he studied under Richard Jones. His work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, After Hours, One Sentence Poems, CHEAP POP, OMNI Reboot, Word Riot, Silver Birch Press, and Midwestern Gothic. A life-long Chicagoan, and he currently teaches at Wright College and College of Lake County. His poem “Where Did That Come From?” was nominated for Best Of The Net 2014 by Electica Magazine.