Generational

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“What did she look like?” he asks, eyes flicking over the humming road, his chin set with concentration on the wrong things.

I pause. My eyes linger briefly on the blurred white line of the shoulder and the shadows marching rapidly cast by the straight rows of something planted.

“What did she look like?”

She looked like poverty.
She looked like a lifetime of food insecurity
and pink Zingers shoved in a pocket.
She looked like blurry blue tattoos, meant to establish autonomy
but instead served as brands and judgement.
She looked like a lifetime of purloined drug-store medications
taken in desperation, and swallowed with a furtive prayer
that nothing worse happen.
She looked like the second owner of
clothes always meant to be disposable.
She looked like underfunded schools and budget cuts
and bureaucrats finding ways to shave benefits and pocket the rest.
She looked like abandoned neighborhoods
with liquor stores and no polling places or parks.
She looked like generations of no way out.
She looked like she needed the love of a foster family
as much as the other children the state took from her.
I wanted to hug her, to take her home, to feed her and
to fix everything, but I cannot—
so instead I will vote and riot and march
and never forget her face.

“She was young. She looked sad and tired.”

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