only $12

in the thick of expensive cigar smoke,
i noticed your clarks and wondered–
maybe i’d be better at math
if everyday calculations were less troubling.

$12 in my jean pocket
(because jeans go with everything)
and i rummage through goodwill sales
where cute black tennis shoes are only $7.99
(i wish i had a pair)
and beautiful blouses for my new job are $10.99
(because unfortunately, dress to impress)
shit, a shirt or the shoes?

i leave goodwill with the shoes and blouses in memory–
i’m running low on soap and tampons are more expensive
than they should be.

$12 in my ripped bag
(i just haven’t had the money to replace it)
while at target i remember that i should get a pillow
(i’ve learned to sleep without one, but still)
and i see the most beautiful choker:
coral, white, and silver crystals hang like
chandeliers, a serene luxury–12.99.

i leave target with only self-reflection–
i have slept without a pillow for over a month now,
and i need to pay my coworker back.

the cigar smoke couldn’t mask your class.
and when you whispered that you scored a
great deal–chocolate for only $12!
i couldn’t help but wonder who’s better at math.

unwritten rules

one of the first porches i sat on was yours.
your papá built it himself. he painted it red,
white, a pale yellow–explosions of color on a
roll of film, the black and white silhouettes being
our homes. your mother brought us quesadillas
she coated with butter and toasted in the oven,
and after i had the first bite i told you a secret i
unwillingly hid from the world. i want to go to one
of the best colleges in the u.s. i’m going to go
far, because i like adventures.

you noticed i didn’t laugh with you,
so you explained the joke.
if my family couldn’t even own property,
how could i own an education?