Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Struggling: Stigmatized

It smells like pee,
it must:
they crinkle their noses in disgust
every time I walk by wafting it in their faces.

It seems to follow me
and precede me
and hangs in the air
like a cloud all around me,

only I can’t smell it
because I’m acclimated.
I’ve seen it choke off conversations
and invitations mid-sentence.

I’ve seen hands fly to mouths
to cover gasps
of giggles while they pointed
down their throats,

gagging and looking down
their noses at me,
causing me to look down
at myself,

looking for a spreading stain
that never came, yet
what else could it be?
I lift my arms and sniff

cup my breath into my hands
and whiff the contents: minty fresh.
Is it just me, or does poverty stink?
It poured cold water on my cotton candy confidence,

melting me within myself.
Since when did being poor become a sin?
I’m too scared to raise my hand
or sit at the front of the class

lest I draw attention to myself.
I’m scarred by Salvation Army clothing,
burning with humiliation
dripping with self-pity,


I am less of a person now.

by George Wilkerson

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