A Beggar at the Gas Station

By Elizabeth Smith

This girl with flaxen hair
and spiders ink-etched in her shoulder
says she ranouttagas,
has to be in Phoenix
real bad.
She cradles cardboard—
The same scratched-up, disquiet dispatch
of so many her before,
so many her after:
     a student outside Wendy’s, where “we’re hiring” wrapped the windows.
     a faker down-dressed, his side-gig by downtown’s arena.
     a bozo bluffed “for bread?” but blew off my fresh loaf.

Yesterday a twenty passed
from Mr. Call to Marty for cardstock—
to my husband for wages—
to me for house-wife allowance.

The fate of my faded, unearned bill
lies in this girl with flaxen hair.


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