What Is Poverty?

Posted: March 17, 2012 in living in poverty
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This essay is a personal account that was written by Jo Goodwin Parker. It was published in 1971. Here is an excerpt:

You ask me what is poverty? Listen to me. Here I am, dirty, smelly, and with no “proper” underwear on and with the stench of my rotting teeth near you. I will tell you. Listen to me. Listen without pity. I cannot use your pity. Listen with understanding. Put yourself in my dirty, worn out, ill-fitting shoes, and hear me.

Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirt- and illness-stained mattress. The sheets have long since been used for diapers. Poverty is living in a smell that never leaves. This is a smell of urine, sour milk, and spoiling food sometimes joined with the strong smell of long-cooked onions. Onions are cheap. If you have smelled this smell, you did not know how it came. It is the smell of the outdoor privy. It is the smell of young children who cannot walk the long dark way in the night. It is the smell of the mattresses where years of “accidents” have happened. It is the smell of the milk which has gone sour because the refrigerator long has not worked, and it costs money to get it fixed. It is the smell of rotting garbage. I could bury it, but where is the shovel? Shovels cost money.

The rest of the essay is here:


  1. ed nelson says:

    that is ugly… I might put in another of my bad dreams…. toilets filled to the brim with you know what… and dirty stinkin’ floors and you are… bare foot…

    I hate that stuff, it is the stuff of … bad dreams… but of course there is worse in store… we could be “tortured”… seems like that is ok now… really?… what ever the hell happened? No jeffrow, I don’t think that we the Americans, will sit still for this… it may take a couple a minutes… a couple a years…

  2. ed nelson says:

    so many of our contemporaries… (peers), hey even… just peoples… hey… just you… and mee
    and even little guys, like me and you, tell you what…

    I don’t remember that time in September… it was a catchy toon.. I do remember the tune…..

    remembering now…. it was “a kind of September…” not my take of: a time in september.

    MY Bad.

  3. ed nelson says:

    Crand stay… I am so drunk at the moment…. I can barly type… can’t even do the ttup

    I am not hppy that i am so fucked up… I REally fuckied up, I want to be were I would be… like where I woulf be……to be shure//// ,,,, too fucked up at the moment….. even I know that,,, I am fucked up, at this time… too much voddka I am drunk~!!

    • In some circles they call that ‘black wire fever.’ Back when people used to talk on the telephone, for some reason, drinking, losing inhibition during speech and dialing the phone were all connected somehow for some people, and that is how we got the term ‘black wire fever.’ I do not know who coined it.

      You could just say (I stole this from somebody) that a vandal broke into your house, stole all the booze and then hijacked your keyboard!

      • ed nelson says:

        well thanks again, you are nice, that is (Christian, in my understanding of that, such as it may be… ) and/or just darn good people.

        My family hasn’t set one foot in a church, other than getting married, for 3 generations/ proviso the grand parents did, but gave up soon as they could.

        I went off on a St. Paddie’s day binge… wore orange all day to boot, some politician!/snarktoid.

        And as for the term: “black wire fever”, never heard it.. but did I ever use and abuse that thing, even got on my brothers black list… yes that same night… he is thinking of getting the call blocker feature… for me. my one living soul who is … oh, how do you say it? my brother is my … “Keeper”… joke. I have Strongs exhaustive concordance at my right hand, if I wasn’t too lazy to look it up…

        ok… I shamed myself enough… Gen 4:9: And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

        To tell the truth, one might have gone trough all the freinds and relatives in ones life, by the time you are in your 60’s… they just ain’t that many left to call on the telephone… but it isn’t really up to what I think of as… Synchronisim… but who is to say if it might not be..? that just that last night… my brother is really upset because I woke he and her up, and then they couldn’t sleep.

        We are all trying to get over a death in the family, maybe that is part of it. Oh know, met up with a gal today, and she walked me into the rehabe center, I could do worse, but I been there did that back a few. (Heavy drinking, no drugs, can’t abide with that.

        “Black wire fever”… that reminds me of this movie… actor Giomoto… (Copola’s nephew, good actor too. ) is this total drunk, and he goes off the deep end… his buddy said: ” you didn’t drink and dial did you?”

  4. Darn, just lost a comment.

    Anyway, it is not hard to stop drinking. It is hard to stay stopped. For a short while, then it gets easier.

    I am sorry to hear of a death in your family, not an easy thing:(

    • ed nelson says:

      No but thanks, hell my poor little mommie, was suffering… I would hear here sort of iduno panting… she kept it close, she was an ace bridge player, smart. smarter than I am.

      Dad was smarter than me too, but his mind worked in some different kind of way…

      Did you ever take notice, that smart people, just have these kind of blinders on… where they can’t access certain areas as well as … we. (I only meant that as we, as in a stitch in time… a small thing… oh well, how can i express that idea?? not worth much effort.).

      To recapitulate, or etempt to reathenticate… nice woids… just so’s you know what I means….

      And you know I think I am having a mini epiphany: to wit: well for CSaks… maybe I should refrain from getting all smarty on the english I use…. !! (ten four good buddy… I’ll be first in line to apreciate that sentiment!)

      I agree wholeheatedly with that above comment msCrane Stay… it ain’t hard to quit drinking, cause it is not an “addictive substance” far from it…. ever goodamned drunk knows very well, thata he/she can quit, and like WCFields famously said…” I quit many times my boy… “

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