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.
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.