Opiate of the Masses

Author | Rachel Reilly

We grew up not-poor. 
The kind of not-poor where
we came to school with plain notebooks when our not
not-poor classmates had sparking patterned ones
with characters we didn’t know
from cabel TV. The kind of not-poor
where we made our own halloween costumes out of
cardboard and Grandma’s old quilt scraps. 
The kind of not-poor where we learned
to drive in cars as old as us and ate strawberry jello
with pretzels and marshmallows and cool whip
on Christmas. The kind of not-poor where mom made
up for the size of our house with it’s compulsive cleanliness
and we were forced to make up
for our shabby clothes and Irish surname with our forced
thin bodies and clear skin. We were not poor. The poor
lived in Africa, Cuba, communist Russia— our world was small—
even southern Missouri: a few of the places
which we weren’t allowed to know
we knew nothing about. And the rich
drove black SUVs, had three bathrooms, and even
more TV’s. We weren’t poor enough to
“get out”; not rich enough for ambition. We
got bachelors degrees
in practical things: 
nursing, teaching, maybe engineering. We married
our fellow not-poor and
had many not-poor children. We always had enough
to be not-hungry, but never any left over
for happiness. Trapped by practicality, we clipped coupons
as hobbies and viewed ourselves as no abnormality
of sick society. The Bible doesn’t like Marx— it says so directly— 
so we don’t know him. And alcohol:
so expensive for something unnecessary. We
patched our basement floor with scraps of rich’s carpet
because this one-floor house is only our habitat; 
we wait for Jesus
in his flying red corvette
to take us home.


About the Author | Rachel Reilly is a current senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she studies Creative Writing and Gender and Women's Studies. After graduation, she intends on entering a MFA program for Poetry Writing. Poetry is her first love, and her Yorkie, Baby Sappho, is her second.