The Welfare Kids
dump their pop cans on handicap
parking signs and rush back in the store
to exchange the empty cans for cash.
They buy Powerballs and Pall Malls
and sometimes pregnancy tests
when it’s almost closing time and everyone
but the miners and cashiers have gone home.
They ask me for matches and smell like sweat
or pot or tooth rot. They wear loose black hoodies
and tuck stolen pizza rolls in the pockets
because they want something cold on their burnt
palms. Or maybe they’re just hungry.
When the cops pick them up at the store front
I keep walking with clenched jaw.
I dig lint from my jean pockets and turn
my head away when they cry.
Alaina Pepin is a poet and writer born and raised on Lake Superior’s shore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She is entering her fourth and final year as an English secondary education major at Northern Michigan University, where she works as a Writing Center tutor. Her poetry appears in Pif Magazine and is forthcoming in NMU’s undergraduate literary journal, Ore Ink Review.