instructions for the second shift

Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash

Rush back from school in the afternoon.
Throw bookbag to a corner. Eat a snack.

Sit cross legged on the floor across from Mother.
Fold old magazines into rectangles, big and small.

Brush over homemade rice glue on the sides. Fold.
Voila! Paper bags to hold sugar, beans, eggs, more.

Stack the bags neatly into piles of ten, twenty, fifty.
Tomorrow, Aji will sell them to local shops, paisas apiece.

Today, take pride in turning waste paper into money.
Open the bookbag and finish homework.

Repeat again tomorrow afternoon.
Never ever speak about it in school.

Now, we have names — recycled, upcycled, green whatnot.
Then, there was just one — survival.

(Included in the Bronx Memoir Project Volume V — 2021, published by Bronx Council on the Arts)