Kaitlen Whitt

Eating Hate at the DHHR

The man at the DHHR        rolls his eyes            when my mom says she wants    to apply 

         for SNAP.       He pushes            the form through a small slot       beneath the window.      

     There is an eighth inch of bullet        proof glass       between us. SNAP means food

stamps, and food stamps means giving up.        The form is dark       pink. The writing fades 

                into the back ground.          My mother asks for help          reading    

      something on the form.            The man asks my mother                      if she can read.    

     My mother isn’t bulletproof.           The man is safe      behind the glass.          

I fade into the background.          My mother’s cheeks flare            pink and something snaps

inside of her.            The DHHR rolls its eyes      when my mother crumples 

                up the form     and shoves it back through the small slot.      The man doesn’t know       

   that the police have been to our house         eight times          in two months 

         because of my father.      The DHHR doesn’t know that I’m not safe     that my mom 

 isn’t safe.        Going to the DHHR      means giving up     being a person.          I don’t want 

             to be a person. I just want        to take a lunchbox     to school.      My mom doesn’t tell 

      the man       that my father       won’t give her money        for groceries.  

My mother     still wants            to be a person. She still           wants me to want to be a person   

and I hate her.      Every hollow space inside of me       is filled with hatred       

                    for my mother        and I feel full               for the first time     in weeks.      



See Dictionary.com: 1) an uneducated farm laborer, especially from the South
                                       2) a bigot or reactionary, especially from the rural working class

See the grass on Blair Mountain 
      glistening with shells that rusted and ran
      red all over the fields where Chafin dropped
      bombs on Mother Jones' army. No uniform 
      except red handkerchiefs fading in the heat.

You might be a Redneck if
      your grandfather died in debt
      to a coal company that went bankrupt
      forty years ago. Pounds of worthless scrip
      weighing down his safety deposit box. 

See men laid out, in Matewan
      bodies overlapping like lovers. Red bandanas 
      around their throats, the mark of a labor union 
      that couldn't save them. Red seeping out 
      of the bullet holes in their backs.

You might be a Redneck if
      you watched your dad suffocate
      under the weight of three decades 
      of coal dust. The insides of his lungs 
      dark like a night without stars. 

See boys in Paint Creek
      rotting in the rain by the tracks after Baldwin-Felts
      came through to break up the strike and struck down
      anyone with a red ring around their neck,
      most of them just sons imitating their fathers.

You might be a Redneck if
      the Earth swallowed up your sister,
      your brother when the shining walls of a mine
      shaft closed in around them, the birth canal
      collapsing inward, crushing its own children.


Going Home   

Start at the only traffic light, two eyes. One green, one red, caution
      pierced through with a bullet hole that’s cracked the plastic
      to become a spider with too many legs—all of them broken.

Stop beside a truck, pregnant with straight, felled trees.
      The driver has bent the bill of his ball cap into a perfect U
      as in: What the fuck are you looking at? Leaving a place means
      that when you come back, you won’t smell right. 

Go. Pass the Exxon, windows hazy from the steam of pepperoni rolls
      being cooked by the small restaurant inside. Cigarette smoke hangs
      above a line of cars, coughing as they wait for the one working pump.

Pass the pharmacy: closed since last year.
      The funeral home: open on weekends.
      Pass the building that used to be a hardware store.
            The floral shop: open Fridays and on weekends.
            Go on by the bank: open 9-5 every day but Sunday.
            Pass the vacant lot where the middle school used to be.
                  Pass the Nazarene church: always open.
                  The Baptist church: always open
                  Methodist church: always open.
                  The other Baptist church: always open.
                        Make a left at the library: open from 2 to 5 Tuesdays/Thursdays.
                        Pass the fabric store, the liquor store, then the bakery: all boarded up.

Hang a right at the yard with irises blushing as they peak
      over a white picket fence, sharp and perfectly dangerous.

Drive by the two airstreams, noses almost touching. Beached
      whales frozen almost forty years. They share
      a mailbox that’s been painted to look like a cow
      with a big, dumb smile that gets touched up every Spring.

Crawl up the hill to a white house—perfect square
      bitter sugar cube. Sentry of redbones rattle chains,
      bare teeth like bloodied ghosts.  If it’s not raining
      mom will be waiting on the porch, plate in hand. Potatoes
      mashed just the way you like them, too much pepper, trapped
      behind a skin of plastic wrap that gleams under the porch lamp.


Kaitlen Whitt is a third year poetry candidate in Virginia Tech’s creative writing MFA program. She has composed stories for broadcast on West Virginia Public Radio and has published poems with Natural Bridge, Appalachian Journal and The Blue Earth Review


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