Writing About One Of Life’s Biggest Obstacles: Poverty

To say that the world has thrown us a curveball in the last twelve months is a huge understatement — and whereas all of us hope for the best in 2021, the year has certainly gotten off to a rocky start. Many of us are still out of work thanks to job cutbacks and layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led many more to rethink their financial situations. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the written word has become all the more valuable.

You might not think that a person would choose to write about their own experiences with a Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy — but they do. That’s the sad state of the world we live in. Here are a few poems that explore this unfortunate topic.

This poem is aptly called “Bankruptcy” and was written by Kelvin Rush, who takes a somewhat comical and almost optimistic approach to what life threw his way:

My assets were sold

I was stripped naked and bare

They found all the gold

It was a callous affair

My home has now gone

My reputation in tatters

At least I’m still alive

That’s all that matters

They took all my money

My possessions, my debts

They’ll be no more legal action

No phone calls, no threats

In a year from now

I become debt free

Thank you to my creditors

For my Bankruptcy!

“Bankruptcy Hearing” by Dana Bisignani takes on a completely different tone: she writes about how the stigma of bankruptcy and financial distress can be crushing, follow you around forever, and make you feel like a child unfit to survive in the real world.

They have us corralled

in the basement of the courthouse.

One desk and a row of folding chairs—

just like first grade, our desks facing Teacher

in neat little rows.

        Upstairs,

wooden benches like pews and red

carpet reserved for those who’ve held out

the longest. No creditors have come to claim us

today. We’re small-time.

This guy from the graveyard shift

stares at his steel-toed boots, nervous hands

in his lap. None of us look each other

in the eye. We steal quick looks—how did you

get here. . .  

chemo bills, a gambling addiction,

a summer spent unemployed and too many

cash advances to pay the rent.

We examine the pipes that hang

from the ceiling, the scratched tiles on the floor,

the red glow of the exit sign at the end of the hall

so like our other failed escapes:

light of the TV at night,

glass of cheap Merlot beside a lamp,

a stop light on the way out of town.