poetry Applying for AFDC
Applying for AFDC
I sat in the Welfare Office
in nylons and spike-heeled shoes,
hair stacked to make my height
between six-two and six-four.
I wore a tight black sleeveless dress,
a black eyeliner mole
on my right cheek, and a gold
snake bracelet coiled on my upper arm.
A woman in tennis shoes and a red muumuu,
who’d been waiting all morning,
cursed the girl at the desk.
A small boy yelled, “Right on!”
Social workers frowned in all the doorways.
I chain-smoked Marlboros
and paced the floor. Changing
my baby’s diapers for the third time
in the restroom, I noticed my shadow—
a flat lady, cringing in the corner.
The gaudy one in the mirror grimaced at me.
You’d think I owed them something—these
strangers I’d rather ignore.