Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poems 3 & 4: NPR 30 Poems in 30 Days

To Whom It May Concern—Written on the Back
of a Denny’s Place Mat, April 15, 2009

I completed my 2008 tax forms,
and mailed them. I now understand
where last year’s salary went
down to my tithes, gambling losses,
charitable donations to my job,
and Planned Parenthood, plus
the thousand dollars to my mother
that I couldn’t claim, gifts
are not deductible her garage needed
new siding because the neighbors
don’t like seeing peeling paint,
warped boards on a 53-year-old garage
I wished I could have helped pay
for the garage roof, but I had to make
second mortgage payments
on my house’s roof, furnace, air
conditioning yes, we are aware
we are privileged, we are middle
class, she retired after driving
a school bus for 29 years, serving
as a county deputy sheriff for 3 years,
and holding pieces of part-time jobs
for 12 years, I have a full-time career
as a university professor, we own/are paying
for our houses, our cars and the neighbors
can’t see her basement’s bowed back
south wall needs repair because
when it rains two inches of water
pours through its crack but she can
pump the water out and throw away
another chair or end table, all that is left
of her father’s/mother’s estate or a few
more picture albums containing my childhood
skinny, ashy legs, knobby knees/elbows,
eyes too big for a thin oval caramel face
faded pastel Kodak photographs because
mold keeps growing in the basement
even after she pumps out the water,
even after she sprays Lysol disinfectant
for ten minutes because any more time
than that and she can’t breathe
and my brother who lives with her
can’t stay down in the basement family room
for more than 5 minutes because it sets off
his asthma and he’s trying not to get pneumonia
this year because last year it took the State of Illinois
8 months to ok his asthma meds and
he can’t afford to use too much of it because
he won’t have money left out of his
four hundred dollar monthly SSI check he’s legally blind
after he gives my mother a little help
on the household bills, mortgage payment, and food
because he can’t feed himself with the eight dollar
monthly State food allowance and my mother says
she can’t put him out because he is her son and he can’t see
and if she did put him out who would hear her
in the middle of the night when the pain
from her Sickle Cell Anemia cuts her breath,
who would hold her arm, help her to the bathroom
when the pain in her left hip is so hard she can’t support
her own weight or bend down far enough
to get on the floor and crawl to toilet because
he has to pee really badly because
the Sickle Cell Anemia has weakened her bladder,
kidneys, heart, eyes, joints, but we are glad she is with us
even if she’s in pain because doctors once said
she wouldn’t live past 35 years and last September
she turned 68 more than old enough for Medicare,
but she won’t go to a doctor because Medicare
won’t cover the total costs for a hip replacement
and she can’t afford the co-pay on her retirement pay
and Social Security payments, besides she doesn’t
have the money to cover the Medicare “doughnut hole,”
and she doesn’t have any other health insurance,
but if she dies, her $250 Social Security death benefit
and the life insurance policy she paid for over 20 years,
will provide enough funds for us to bury her
in a low-end casket surrounded
by red and white carnations
while the choir sings her favorite hymn,
“His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”
This is all to say, I would like an itemized
account of how my 2008 paid withholdings,
Federal Taxes, FICA, and Medicaid were spent;
I’m requesting the same from the State of Illinois.
I do not want a refund, just an accounting
so I can explain to my retired mother why
she and her legally blind son live the way they do,
and I can say without a catch in my throat,
"Thank God we live in America."

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