“Wages” By Larry Smith



Payday comes in from the cold
and sets a bag down in the hallway.
She finds her place at the table
where we are dressed in our good clothes.
Mom is already drinking wine
and Dad is telling funny work stories.
Payday laughs like coins falling on a metal tray.
We pass her the pork chops
and watch her fork not one but two—
“One for later,” she grins at us.
Like always we pretend to smile.

By the time the sun has set
we’ve said good-bye to our Payday
and a silence fills the room.
When I break a plate, Mom cries,
“Oh shit. Look what you’ve done.”
You can hear the sound of wind.
Then Mom hands Dad a fist full of bills,
and we kids go off to our rooms.
Tomorrow will mean our old clothes again
and the counting of our coins.


About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.


Image Credit: “Alabama Tenant Farmer Family Singing Hymns” Walker Evans (1936) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

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