Absolute Debt

~ for Ross Gay

Did you hear about the tractor
trailer driver who quit his job,
maxxed out all his credit cards
and took his family on a long
cross-country trip a week 
before the world was predicted 
to end? He said The rapture 
would have been a relief: meaning, 
when the magic moment came, all 
believers would just be spirited 
away in a flash of blinding
light to the afterlife. Credit
collectors would only hear  
a strange, electric absence 
at the other end of the line.

No need to worry about 
looking for a lawyer, or how 
after coming back from bankruptcy
court, your wages are garnished.
This has nothing to do with parsley,
and everything to do with how long 
it will take, depending on what 
chapter bankruptcy you have, 
to wipe out your debts so you 
can rebuild your credit— As if
the hand punishing you for being
profligate is also the same hand 
holding out the promise of a new 
debt trap. Your friends will be 
sympathetic but won't ask you 
out to restaurants or concerts  
again. Whatever's left in your pay-
check will be just enough for food
and rent, necessities. You spend
sleepless nights worrying, afraid
there'll never be a happy ending. 

What is the value of your assets,
and what are assets anyway? Spring 
follows winter, and it's summer 
again then fall. Your kind neighbor 
who's worked at the corner drugstore 
for the last 20 years says don't worry,
it's only money; says he comes from
a country where some of his patients
were too poor to afford the doctor's 
fee. They'd bring him fish or newly 
harvested rice, the silver bodies 
lined up in baskets like bullion, 
the tiny pearls impossible to count 
in their burlap sack. He listened with 
his stethoscope, looked into their ears; 
palpated stomachs, asked them to take 
a deep breath. To this day they send   
cards at Christmas, with a picture 
of the baby he'd delivered breech: now 
in high school, now walking across a stage 
to receive her college diploma, now 
a teacher with children of her own.

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