Alice Notley

Winner of the 2001 Shelley Memorial Award

Lady Poverty

Sings in the gullies
To all you go without is added more as the years
Youth's face health certain friends then more and
so to get poorer
life's arrow—tapers thinner sharper

She always sang there to purify
not the desert always pure
but me of my corrupt furor
So losing more further along in this dream of
firstrate firmament fireworks—
consigned to roam above brown dirt occasional
maxilla, and be shaped badly—
twisted internally: join her truly

She's I

She should be

the shape of life is impoverishment—what
can that mean
except that loss is both beauty and knowledge—
has no face no eyes for
seasons of future delivery—rake the dirt
like Mrs. Miller used to
down at the corner had a desert yard and raked her dirt.

Beginning in poverty as a baby there is nothing
for one but another's food and warmth
should there ever be more
than a sort of leaning against and trust a food for
another from out of one—that would be
poverty—we're taught not to count on
anyone, to be rich,
youthful, empowered
but now I seem to know that the name of a self is poverty
that the pronoun I means such and that starting so
poorly, I can live

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