rented VCRs

when i was a kid
we carefully sat upon
the poverty line
you don’t know
necessarily that
you are poor as a
precocious child
i had assumed everyone
lived like we did
it wasn’t as if we
went without often
we just lived within
our means as best
as we could manage

one summer we had a
garden of veggies to
go along with the
fields of raspberries
growing wild in the
irradiated radon fumes
we didn’t know billowed
poison into our home
canning them and
making jellies and
pickles to stock the
long cold illinois winter
the same as many others
or so i believed as
stupid kid with his
books and sketching
ignorant to the struggle
as it was just life

my favorite times were
when dad would swing by
and take me on calls
long drives to arcades
where he would show me
how to fix them and i
would get to test them
to make sure the repairs
were done correctly
special trips while dad
drank beers from the
trusty coffee mug and
my love for long drives
and pixelated graphics
became ingrained in my
as yet fertile mind

the liquor store rented
out VCRs and movies
row upon row of grisly
covers that promised to
keep me awake even as he
was passed out on the couch
rewinding and rewatching
gorey horror films
while he snored loudly
and i felt like i had
the world in my hands
before the bipolarity
and full weight of the
bad things that went
unmentioned had suitably
scarred innocence into
whatever it is i became

i have always been at
the cusp of nothing
so the idea of enough
has been the big dream
quiet days with books
providing the escape
from the incessant need
the hunger that lingers
as i scrape and save to
give the kids all they
could possibly want
settling for scraps just
the same as my father
finding small pleasures
to pacify the bigger
picture that never seemed
to form from the static

but i wish i could have
one more day driving
past the corn fields as
jimmy buffett plays and
dad and i sing fins on
our way to the next call
where the cabinets sit
and the magic key opens
each one while i flick
the coin switch and play
then we can stop off and
pick up toxic avenger or
whatever big movie has
just released and dad
can pass out on the couch
while i keep the volume
low and lose myself in
the technicolor wonder
thirteen channels could
never hope to capture

it was never about the
things we couldn’t afford
because i had no concept
of straddling that hidden
poverty line when all we
ever needed was a weekend
a rented VCR and a couple
tapes to take us away
with no concept of squalor
just enough to keep us
happily engrossed in the
time we spent together
never knowing just how
little time there was as
life has a way of dwindling
away in the quiet moments
that become the memories
we cannot quite escape

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