When I was five, my teachers taught me to use my fingers to count
and to name the colors on each part of the wheel
so that now that I'm twenty three, I can tally the number of times
I've watched my mother fall down and the colors of the bruises
that appear like a sunrise on her face.
When I was ten, I was taught of the history of our nation
to understand and memorize lines of trade and industry
so that now that I'm twenty three, I can sit outside the routes of production
and gather food-stamps and fill out unemployment notices
that pile like fallen leaves on my kitchen table.
I'm not sure when I realized that they had lied when they told me
that I could be anything, do anything; that really those
big dreams left me lying on my bed, to myself
about the limits of a sky, whose ceiling falls lower
each time the stock market drops.
When I was thirteen, I filled out my family tree and
imagined the branches that would eventually grow from me
limbs and roots that would ground me in an identity I hadn't defined as of yet;
that never seemed to grow and now has left me rootless,
watching the break down of the 50s family.
I'm holding out for what they promised me.
I'm holding nothing but a piece of paper in my hands.
I'm waiting to cross a finish line that I can't see.
I'm so tired.