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American Life in Poetry: Bankruptcy

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American Life in Poetry: Bankruptcy
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By Ted Kooser

These days are brim full of bad news about our economy--businesses closing, people losing their houses, their jobs. If there's any comfort in a situation like this, it's in the fact that there's a big community of sufferers. Here's a poem by Dana Bisignani, who lives in Indiana, that describes what it feels like to sit through a bankruptcy hearing.


Bankruptcy Hearing

They have us corralled

in the basement of the courthouse.

One desk and a row of folding chairs--

just like first grade, our desks facing Teacher

in neat little rows.


wooden benches like pews and red

carpet reserved for those who've held out

the longest. No creditors have come to claim us

today. We're small-time.

This guy from the graveyard shift

stares at his steel-toed boots, nervous hands

in his lap. None of us look each other

in the eye. We steal quick looks--how did you

get here . . .

chemo bills, a gambling addiction,

a summer spent unemployed and too many

cash advances to pay the rent.

We examine the pipes that hang

from the ceiling, the scratched tiles on the floor,

the red glow of the exit sign at the end of the hall

so like our other failed escapes:

light of the TV at night,

glass of cheap Merlot beside a lamp,

a stop light on the way out of town.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Introduction copyright 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.