fall 2018 / Poetry 2018 / volume 49

Cheap Living—James Valvis

When you grow up, dying Nanny said,
you can leave here and join the army
and go those places they tell you,
buy yourself property in Alabama.
It’s cheap living in Alabama, she said.
I had a cousin who enlisted
and bought a house in Alabama,
a real house owned and everything,
and never had no time for kids,
but had that house and two dogs,
and you’ll get two dogs too, or cats.
Jersey City isn’t a place
for a boy like you, for someone
who doesn’t like to fight.
You’re better off in the army,
and in Alabama, a place like that
where you can buy your own house
and get two dogs, or three, sun
shining on porches and no climbing steps
always stabbing a pocket knife
into the dark nothings of fear.
Do you hear what I’m saying?
The army first, she said, then Alabama,|
and then the house and dogs. Or cats.
When you grow up. When I’ll be dead.
Don’t you worry about me, she said.
I got this apartment and my knife
and with what my doctors been saying
where I’m going is cheap living too.

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