We Are Poor


We are poor. We live in a house without furniture. We sit on the floor. We have never seen the baseboards from this level before.

We are very poor. At this level of poverty, we understand the names of things for the first time, in a new and different way. A sweater is no longer a stylish accessory. A sweater is a thing that you wear when you are cold. A coat is a thing that you wear over the sweater when you are more cold. Pants are things that you put on your legs. The names have real meaning now.

Once, when we were less poor, we intentionally bought battered things, things that would make us look poor while in fact we were not poor. Now, we still own a few of these things: the battered jeans, the battered t-shirts. But now they are no longer funny. Now, they are just another part of us being poor.

We are hungry. This hunger gives us clarity of a sort. When Hemingway was a young man, he would not eat all day, go to the galleries in Paris and look at the pictures, and then write. This, he said, the not-eating, he said, gave him extra clarity. Not that we are comparing ourselves to Hemingway and not that we even necessarily like Hemingway. We are just saying.

We are tired. We do not have many books. One of the few books that we own is a free copy of the New Testament, given away for free by the Days Inn, which is a hotel where we once stayed. Now we read the book and the words seem to have extra meaning. Either that, or we are having a nervous breakdown from the poverty, and we are entering an irritating religious phase that we will forget all about in three months. We read the book:

…Consider the birds of the sky, that they do not sow or harvest or collect for their granaries, and your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not preferred above them? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his growth?

And why do you take thought about clothing? Study the lilies in the field, how they grow. They do not toil or spin; yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these.

We put down the book. Why do we take thought about clothing? Because we are cold? Because we are cold. Is the book right or not right? We do not know. At any rate, we have the internet in the house but no furniture. After reading the book, we open up our computers, go on the internet, and watch movies with explosions in them for a while.

Someday, no doubt, we will not be poor. This is a thing to think about. In the meantime, we look at things with clarity: that road, that tree, that lawn outside our house. And then we get sick of looking at things with clarity.

But someday, no doubt, we will really not be poor. We will be rich, comparatively speaking. We will be less poor. We will be less poor, and our house will fill up with things. And we will use these things, and we will look at these things. We will stare at these things and we will have something to look at other than ourselves.

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image – Abandoned house