First Place Winner in Central Coast Writer's Contest

The Settling

You settle for the man who treats you rough;
you walk behind him carefully so you
won’t anger him, won’t make him raise his voice.
You settle for the job that makes you ache,
long hours at a desk with little light,
slow minutes when you’re bored out of your skull.
You settle for a care that barely runs—
a clunker you’re still paying for, sedan
that crawls through icy streets, its tires thin
as rubber that’s been stretched by little kids.
You settle for the house stuck by the tracks,
a rental that your landlord hates to fix,
damp as a submarine, an ancient one.
But you have never settled for a life
without the musicality of words,
without the poetry you found in books
precariously above your head at home
and on the library’s imposing shelves.
Each night you take a book with you to bed,
confusing all the men who come and go,
each one of them inept at hearing you.
at realizing why you need this time,
this hour between one day and the next,
one hour when the settling means you
need not explain your job, your car, yourself.

Allison Joseph