Bridge Card Holder

Poetry by Demetrius Buckley

You have insufficient funds at 11:52,
again at 11:58.

12:01, you swipe
Newports and Arizona Iced Tea,
Everfresh Papaya Juice because
you don't like how gin
burns when traveling solo down a dry throat.
You seem to think of your child
and snatch a red Blow Pop
which, by morning, will end up
stuck on the side of a carseat
collecting fast food crumbs
and dollar store weave,
a ponytail on a stick.

At a distance,
Chandler Park is a simple circle:
one way in one way out. It reminds you
of momma's favorite line:
niggas chase their own funky tails.
You want him in deep circles,
calendar events, when prenatal prescriptions
boost your monthly funds with swollen breasts
and thick thighs, under a shirt one size
too big. Maybe this time it'll be a girl
and she'll inspire the young boys up the street
to catch her dreaming out the hood. You ignore
momma when she say he gon' be in prison
or on a T-shirt posing the good lord's death.
She makes you think about that.

You put on a WIC renewal form,
under the name of the girl’s father,
incarcerated. Or deceased.
The looks would be indefinite as you sit
opposite the social worker. CPS
on speed dial like Chinese One takeout,
the place with the orange chicken
soaked in sweet and sour sauce.
Your social worker is curvy, her blue hair curled
and she always excuses herself
when the office phone rings. She got a baby too,
you've noticed: his picture framed on her desk
says her food stamps come every first of the month.
You don't know what box to check: deceased.
Incarcerated. Extinct.

The night is in heat,
the cars in front slow to show off.
You know not to love him and all his power,
his strap under the seat.
You bet his momma was on welfare too,
surviving the world made for man.
Maybe the feeling will fade
like the barcode on the back of a bridge card.
Maybe he'll survive the summer.