If I Made a Living Wage

By Elliott DeLine

If I made a living wage
I think that I could disengage
The guilt I’ve felt for being alive
And doing what I must to survive.

The time wasted, the sickening rage
Uncivil servants in my face
Accusations, threats, and lies
Profits from my teary eyes

My mother’s silence
My father’s shame
The intergenerational pain
“We pulled ourselves up, why can’t you?”
“A college degree should get you through.”

Set aside material needs
What I want is Dignity
But in addition, let me see…

(If I made a living wage…)

I would pay my share of rent
Repay those from whom I’m leant

I could afford a therapist
For my mental health laundry list

Henceforth, I’d have less PTSD
Fewer nightmares and anxieties

I could go for coffee with new friends
And also afford my medicines

Maybe I could get a guitar
Or even, dare I say, a car?
A couch that isn’t falling apart
Supplies with which to make some art

I’d get a lawyer, who isn’t free
And sue DSS for harassing me
And Sally Mae for swindling me
And transphobic employers for firing me

I’d also save for a kayak or two
Or maybe just a big canoe
So we could go and have a good time
As far as I know, that isn’t a crime

I would never have to fill out forms
Prove I’m poor enough for alms
Or be accused I lie and whine
When I try to claim what’s legally mine

I’d keep writing books, and with more promotion
My sales would really pick up motion
I’d create my own self-publishing collective
For trans and queer writers who are also rejected

I would travel to places where I could swim
And build my cats a jungle gym
I’d be able to just relax and chill
And buy the foods that don’t make me ill

Yes, If I made a living wage
I think that money could assuage
The peach of mind I’ve been deprived
And maybe then I’d truly thrive.

Reprinted with permission from the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is a non-profit labor rights organization in Tompkins County, New York. Following its mission “to stand up with all people treated unfairly at work,” its efforts are dedicated to movement-building among and empowerment of workers through direct action, organizing, workers’ rights and safety education, facilitating enforcement of labor protections, and Living Wage advocacy. This piece was part of the Workers’ Center’s 2016 Living Wage Visioning Contest, which invited people to share original creative works about how their lives or the lives of their families would change if they made a Living Wage.

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