Poverty serves up depression and despair instead of delight.

It brings lethargy to body and soul that longs for life.

It drops doubt into every dream with the ability to

distort reality into nightmarish proportions.

It envelopes and smothers every ray of light

with an oppressive shroud of darkness.

It transforms fresh air

into the polluted toxins of tainted existence.

It causes a metamorphosis

from lasting love to unsatisfying lust.

It fails to nurture and nourish well-being,

but perpetually feeds addiction.

It steals faith from the faithful,

infects decency with depravity,

and turns the hopeful into the hopeless.

However, it is a human construct.

It is only able to do what humans allow it to do.

Humans are responsible for it.

Humans can fix it.

Humans must discover their lost humanity.

Human or inhuman?

That is the question.

© JW Thomas



Ms. Sophie’s lesson

was interrupted

when Patty

sitting in front of me

soaked her panties,

the chair,

the floor

I had no thought

of being mean

Totally surprised

by the urine stream

Spontaneous laugh

attention drawn

creating outbursts

in the class

Almost wet myself

Action I now deplore

I was only seven then

But damn it felt good to laugh

a rarity at my house

Similar to Patty

my body craved a release

a different kind

So pent-up inside was my need

once I began

I couldn’t stop

It was contagious

The class infected

Aching sides

Teary eyes



Rolling in the aisles

Only two

without laughter and smiles


turned preacher

sermonizing our sin

And Patty

turned to stone

in wet panties

on a wet seat

above a damp floor

so alone

How could she know

our laughter

was no longer

about her?

She merely provided

the spark

We were tinder

ready to burn

Kids in a community

with nothing to smile about

nothing to laugh about

except each other


supplied the punch-line

We… were the joke

© JW Thomas

Case of the Missing Ring

[*Years ago my step-son (9-years-old at the time) asked me if I could tell him about one of my private investigative cases for his class project. Well, I never spoke of my real cases outside of work, but I didn’t want to let him down, so I came up with the following micro-story on the spur of the moment… and it got him an “A”]


I was hired to find a missing ring at a bell factory.

I was told that no one had been allowed to leave since the ring came up missing.

So I had every worker hold up their hands, and the missing ring was not on any of their fingers.

Then I had them empty all their pockets, and still the missing ring was not found.

So I had every worker shake their bells, and every bell went “ding-ding.”

Then I had each worker jump up and down while shaking their bells, and quickly discovered the culprit, since they all went “ding-ding” except one. It went “ring-a-ding-ding.”

A detective must be open-minded to all possibilities. Had I been looking only for a missing finger ring I never would have solved the case.


[Inspired from a famous Great Depression photo by Dorothea Lange.]


She looked your way


not at you

straight thru

Do you bear the scar

of her glare?

The windows to her soul

are dark

Deep wells

without wishes

Nearly as dead

as her dreams

Damaged child

sub-living in Shacktown,

Elm Grove,

Oklahoma, U.S. of A.


and ought six

Dust Bowl daughter

Child of the Depression

No smile

no frown


A slice of bread shy

of starvation bloat

Her neckline descending

from her throat

Too thin

to fill her top in


how could you look

immortalize her pain

and walk away?



© JW Thomas

Bringing on the Tears

Tattered balls and a cap gun, baby shoes and fishing line

Baseball cards, a pair of skates, and a children’s nursery rhyme

Locked up in a chest, going on three years

You opened it today and it’s bringing on the tears


Bringing on the tears to cry… that you cried once before

Bringing on the tears you said… you would never cry no more

Bringing on the tears to cry… the pain it shows again

It’s okay, I understand, how much you miss them


Lone Ranger’s mask, a little comb, pants with holes in the knees

Raggedy Ann, stuffed dog named Sam, a photo where they’re saying “cheese”

They bring back all the memories of the better years

And as you remember… they bring back all the tears


Even though it was long ago it feels like yesterday

It’s still too hard to understand why God took them away

They are gone because a man had one too many beers

They caught him, but it don’t help… still bringing on the tears


Bringing on the tears to cry… that you cried once before

Bringing on the tears you said… you would never cry no more

Bringing on the tears to cry… the pain it shows again

It’s okay, I understand, how much you miss them



© JW Thomas

180 Days

Rejected at birth

like the runt of a litter

but it was a solitary birth

No bonding

Never taken to breast

no lips to nips

never tasted Mother’s milk

I still wonder why

How does an hour-old child

earn ostracism from his mother?

An aunt


asked to play house

Surrogate mother

six-month sentence

till alpha mom returns

to her senses

or heart leak is dammed


finally gets a homecoming

It is hard to feel connected

when you’re rejected

the first half-year of life

The bond that was made

with the aunt in eighth-grade

is severed

Familiar touch is gone

The unfamiliar

at times abrupt

at times timid


is profitable

when left alone


seems better

than uncomfortable bonding

No affection

no rejection

Child wisdom

or wishful thinking

It’s hard to be a sage

wearing throwaways

at the ripe old age

of 180 days

© JW Thomas

Where are the bills?

[*Another memory of a time when my house was still full.]


We all talk about how nice it would be to never see any bills. However, let me tell you when the bills don’t show up you really begin to wonder what’s going on?


Most of my bills usually arrive at the end of the month so that I can get them sent out by the first week of the next month. So when the first week of the month arrived prior to receiving any of the bills I naturally started to get curious.


“Where are the bills?” I asked Karen. But she swore she hadn’t seen them. And when she told me why, I had a sneaking suspicion where they were.


“Where are the bills?” I asked Jeff. Because Karen’s sickness was getting worse by that time, she’d been letting Jeff take the mail key to check the box.


“I haven’t seen them, Dad”, Jeffrey replied. “Honest.”


But after more coaxing it became, “Well, maybe some other kids got into the box.” Which, when quickly disproved, became, “Well, maybe a big wind blew them out of my hand when I wasn’t watching.” Until finally we hear, “It’s my fault Dad, I threw them away.”


And why would a kid throw away the bills?


If you believe the initial explanation of the child in question, it was because he was afraid to give bills to his dad, which passed the truth test as poorly as his initial attempts to hide the fact he knew where the bills were.


It appears that, in the mind of a child, if there are no bills around to pay then there is no reason to pay them. Thus the money could be used for other things… like fireworks, toys, etc.


It makes you wonder what you might be missing if your child is checking the mail, doesn’t it?