The Poetry Project


Juliana Roth

In America, you can have a 105 degree fever
be spitting up blood and pus
and if the closest doctor isn’t in-network
that’s two grand
in America
if your body is hurt
that’s on you

In America, the last weeks of a life
might be spent on hold
the last few weeks of life
make you go mad
you can’t remember a time
you weren’t a number

In America, we know how atrocious life can get
how hospitalitable are our hostile neighbors
next door to a law firm specializing
in getting off men accused of rape
they know the loopholes
there’s money, in defense
they have a 5 star Yelp review

In America, you have to ask for a supervisor
like an asshole
you’ve been on the line for two hours
they give you an incident number
at least you can agree on that

In America, I’ve never earned more than $20 an hour
that too was only temporary
earned on days with good tips
my debt is greater than
my income

In my country, I am my income
In my country, the wait music is bad jazz,
Mozart rip offs, yacht rock

In America, my driver’s license looks fake
it’s the old New York
the one without a hologram

In America, they asked if I was injured, was it fatal
it was not, they’d be relieved to know
I’d rolled to a stop, had no passengers, avoided all cars
I was safe, alive, on the phone with them
isn’t it miraculous
you can go from 80 to 0 and not hit a thing
they said I would’ve gotten something if I had
I could’ve sued the mechanic
I could still try
they can’t help
the brakes are on me

In America, my father had a friend
on his sixth cancer diagnosis
he jumped off of the Tappan Zee, the old one
it wasn’t just the disease
the thought of chemo
but the paperwork
the way he’d have to fight
and fight
for a few more months
of pills

Work from Consider the Omnivore: Consumption, Anxiety, Mess as Imagination with Jayson P. Smith