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You’re White Trash Not Wordsworth And

Cigarettes Are Your Currency

by Chrissy Stegman

Your aunt will buy you

fried chicken from the corner

store with her food stamps when

you’re 12 and she's your babysitter.


You’ll get drunk

because you’re with

the ghost of your cousin's

silence, you just can’t hear her eyes

tell you she is

being raped

by her mom’s boyfriend and

the air and her body are filled

with the smoke from his


Your cousin is younger than you

but that makes her

older than you.


Your aunt will buy you

generic cigarettes and

someone will say

let’s get some

peach schnapps and

dodge the bullets on the way

to the liquor store and

it will be your cousin. She won’t be

dead. Not yet.

You can use your last

two quarters for her eyes instead

of cigarettes.

You’re never too poor

for the river Styx.


You can be in a smoke-filled

room with so many cigarettes

it will make a gray cloud and

you can wander,

lonely as that. That can

make you cry and make your mouth

taste the dirt of a place

where you can’t grow the yellow

flowers. The dirt in your mouth

won’t be what bothers you.

It will be the constant



You can be an unlucky ghost.


You can also hear

the bullets flying.

From your mouth.

In the air.

Outside the house that

isn't a house but                                 

a boat

you can float around

the town in. You can

always find new places

to fill your sail with suffering.

You won’t have a choice.

And you can say:


I gotta go home.


You can learn you

will never find a home

until you are grown.

Oh, and you can bring

your cigarettes

for the road.

About the Author

Chrissy Stegman has five kids - 3 bio; 2 bonus. She loves reading and writing poetry, reading the faces of strangers, finding forests, and holding her husband's hand. On the surface, she's pretty boring, but she thinks her poetry makes up for her day-to-day mediocrity. She went to school. She did some stuff. She's here now. That's all that matter.

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