One way or another

1 min
Runner up

Robin is an artist, writer, & journaler. She left Ohio many years ago for the rugged beauty of Albuquerque, New Mexico and has been smitten with the landscape ever since. ​ You can find her on  [+]

Image of Summer 2020

And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom
from In Memory of W. B. Yeats by W. H. Auden

Wander the towns of America,
and ask

are you free?

I asked this of a woman in the Dollar Tree parking lot
which had been wilting under the sticky Cleveland heat for weeks.
My head was a donut just out of the fryer.

She barely looked my direction as she gathered small children
set them right in the cart, tied a shoe, patted her purse.
Her hair needed a wash.
With a heave, she drove the cart, rusty and listing to the right,
up the ramp. The door opened out
and I watched as she maneuvered through
with a hard twist of her shoulder and a quick two-wristed shove.

I followed.

But what I want to know, ma’am, is
are you free?

She turned on me then.
Her eyes were broken bottles
against a backdrop of painted bridges,
blackened three times and counting, and held enough hope
to kill a man.


The sound she made wasn’t a laugh
or a cry, it was the sound
of supper time forks clattering
but not enough vegetables or meat.
It echoed with the resolve to save beloved children
from war and the knowing that you will fail.
It was blood and spit, looking your enemy right in the eye.
It rang with the hammer beat of labor camps and the slow seep
of gas oven deaths.
Without one word, she spoke of children who aren’t safe
even in their own homes,
mourned the too-early deaths of the falsely accused
and unjustly persecuted.
It sang from a hymnal clutched in rosary hands
passing baskets of money. It held up choir boys forever changed,
and looked down upon televangelists just in it for
private jets and swimming pools, amen.

It broke her heart.

It shouted poor is bad and I will kill you for that,
one way or another.
Her voice was heavy smoke, rising right there in Aisle Four
between the Pringles and five dollar frying pans,
and it threatened to burn the place down.

And then it was gone and in its place, a soft breeze.
She patted a startled child on the head, smoothed his porcupine hair.

We have never been free, she said, sliding
a box of Strawberry Frosted Pop-Tarts in the thin space between
a son and a daughter, you just like to think we are


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Image of Houda Belabd
Houda Belabd · ago
Congratulations, Robin !!
Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
Congratulations for this tremendous win, Robin!
Image of Sunny Lancaster
Sunny Lancaster · ago
Congratulations Robin!
Image of Mary Tabor
Mary Tabor · ago
Congratulations on the win and the message for freedom for all!
Image of Felix Culpa
Felix Culpa · ago
I like your story, my full vote for you Robin !
Image of Manuela Guerra
Manuela Guerra · ago
Your poem made me linger....I love when stories to that! !! This line ,"The sound she made wasn’t a laugh or a cry, it was the sound of supper time forks clattering but not enough vegetables or meat" was fantastic. You've got my vote.
Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
A well thought out poem, moving and profound ! My support!
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
Robin, my full support for the final round, 5 votes. I have two stories that made the finals as well: "Maize of Color" and "Green Springs" Feel free to vote if you like those as well for continued support! Tony
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
Powerful poem, Robin. I felt it right below my chest. Wonderful non verbal language. 5-stars and my full support. Check out my entry, "Maize of Color" in the short fiction category and vote if you like it. Tony
Image of Mel Bohrer
Mel Bohrer · ago
Wonderful work, Robin! I feel it.