Ode to Getting By
Whisper to me, February,
the true reason for your arrival.
Though stores fly your
white and red banners,
and my neighbor’s narcissus sprouts
yellow spikes and furls from below,
I hear only the raucous cries of black birds
who sport feathers of oil slick rainbows.
They march across lawns in a straight line,
a platoon scavenging for supplies.
Smelling like a road worker
who’s forgotten to wash
you are the month meant to tease us
with signs of life while we eat the last
of what’s left in the larder. Comfort food
meals of soup, chewy dark bread and beans
flavored with molasses and mustard.
“Sticks to your ribs” my dad would say to me,
in the getting-by months after Christmas
and before taxes. Mom would push her food
around her plate until my dad cleared his,
and she could light a cigarette. Her family
never hid in the basement from bill collectors,
or ate government issue cheese. She will stare
through the window pane until he finishes,
his chewing slow as he works to keep
his store-bought teeth in his mouth.
I will clear the table and wash.
Dad will dry while Mom gets
the checkbook to balance
the family’s accounts.
Kris Demien lives with multiple species in Portland, Oregon. Her work appears in VoiceCatcher, The Poeming Pigeon/Sports issue and at About Place Journal.