Poverty Bitch. A Prose piece for Male Voice by Sea Glassman
Poverty is that bitch in the red velvet dress down to her ankles, gold lame` scarf and under her vibrant smile are black and missing teeth; she smiles that winning almost toothless grin – her other teeth perfect and white – and somehow she undoes all your thoughts of what belongs to you. She is sheepish and shy while undoing your zipper, and she slips you the hand while conversing about Literature, the Arts. Her fingernails are dirty, and her nails are chipped – not all of them. When she sings she can belt out a tune like a diva – her raspy voice a tattooed barmaid seducing the song, her long fingers holding a long cigarette, and she acts like she knows you, even on the street, fresh from the bed, in front of people you want to impress and don’t want to know that you know her. And I love her, I love her.
This love affair, I’ll admit, has gone on for so long, she’s the only one, the only one I see. I look around for others and – it’s not that she’s possessive -she’d let me go if I wanted, but somehow, that voice and the way she holds her cigarette, the way her eyes dance with a dangerous flame going up – I want her – I want her – I admit. She’s a bitch and she loves me, but she’s all I’ve got.
At night in the deep of her arms she pulls me close and tells me lies, but she makes them sound like the truth. Her lipstick is so red, so red that it makes the words pink, so they taste like candy in my mouth, and they make me sick but I keep on eating. It’s the only food she has, and I‘m hungry. I am so hungry I forgot how to eat, but Poverty -Poverty won’t touch me, – she rubs my feet, and tells me how someday she‘ll get to the rest of me, when she has time – she’s busy right now, she says through her red lipstick, over her shoulder, then whips out her cell phone to talk to some guy and in the morning she’s gone, but my pillows are stained. No quarters for the laundry.
I call and leave messages – I call all the time, but she’s out, or she’s screening, she has an appointment – it’s only a friend. So I wait and pass time – I watch some TV – she’ll come around again – I know it. She always does. And just when it gets so bad – when I’m so lonely I feel like I’ll die, Poverty comes around whistling a tune, and she throws me some money and winks – just a little, just enough, and I feel so lucky, I go out and buy me some token of Poverty’s affection, something to hang on the car mirror maybe – and when I see her next I’ll take her by the hand and thank her for not forgetting me – she’s all I have. I take the token home and I put it on my windowsill . I think of Poverty when she’s not there – she’s always there but she’s never there, when she’s out or with others, or smoking in bathrooms, or on the phone with one of her friends. Only friends.
Then we’re at a party and she’s in a mood, – she slips out for a smoke, and slits her eyes at me while going by – I was trying to ignore her, but sometimes she’ll grab me and make me feel strong, like I could do without her, she’ll kiss me like a drunken bear and then push me away and I’m out on my own. Woozy and swollen and stumped.
And I don’t want her anymore – I’m sick of her – through, you see ? I’ve had it with her. I don’t want her any more. I follow and grab her skinny dry wrists and she pushes me into the street and I go – I flip her off and tell her her ass is too skinny ! Now in the light of the street she’s scrawny and drawn, and not the least bit attractive – her teeth are loose and falling out, her foot massages stink – she’s a prude and she’s greedy, I tell her – I don’t like the token -it’s cheap and it’s flimsy – it’s damn badly made, it swings like a monkey from my mirror, a monkey on my back, cheap, like her shoes , which don’t match her red velvet dress! They’re the wrong color! This backs her up to the concrete street wall. She draws a straight line with her eyes from my feet to my hair and opens her mouth to a scowl shaped like a red bent wheel and rolls it at me -a string of cuss words and a thousand ships sailing out of a red cave to war with blue flags unfurling behind, and she flicks her cigarette butt at me while it burns and she laughs at her own cruelty, – she has outdone herself this time! Then she walks down the stair case, that haggy old bitch, – she looked young in the dark – I’m a fool – and she picks up the phone like I ceased to exist and she talks and I walk.

I walk away. I am done with her. She bores me. I admit it – I loved her. I loved her so much I wanted to bleed for her. I wanted her hand to reach through my chest and pull out my heart. I wanted her all to myself all the time, I wanted to live with her, live inside her, I wanted to be in her blood.
But there’s no liquid in those skinny veins – and she doesn’t eat so I can’t take her out. She’d throw up the dinner. I’d call at the door of the bathroom, “ Poverty ! Poverty! Are you in there? When are you coming out?! ” Here she comes, wiping her mouth with the back of her wrist. Her hands, though the fingers were long and attractive – dry as ten bones in a graveyard. She was mean, through and through.

So why did I love her, why was I devoted, why did I want her and need her and follow her and beg her, again and again, to keep me, to keep me ? Why did I come back again and again, hoping she’d notice me, that I’d be the one that she’d keep?
That bitch didn’t even read the paper-she knew nothing of current affairs – the earthquake in India, the riches of the world , the colors of the grass, the ups and downs of the stock exchange, the song of the wind, the blue of the sky , the feel of the air in the Spring, the cats and dogs to feed and stroke, the babies with fat rolls of flesh and toothless smiles of pure love – she was selfish, is all. There was no one but her. Just Poverty. A one woman show. No room for anyone else. Nothing in the refridgerator, because she forgot to pick up the milk, she forgot to pick up the bread. That should have been the first clue.

But we’re through now, see? Through.