Jess Silfa

Keeping Up

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Your ankle sings the blues, creaks like bedsprings on the good nights you don’t have, hisses like the paratransit van when it arrives, a blessing until it’s not, until you count how many hours you lose in your week in wait, in plan Bs, in avoiding the rain, there are no phone calls to announce
wait outside anywhere within a 30-minute window, and god forbid you don’t have a window rain or shine, you will get rained on, snowed on, burned like a piece of meat on a too-hot grill, or you risk having no way to get home, to school, to work, get to participate in the rest of the world, with the rest of your world, which doesn’t wait for you the rest of your world writes in woods without ramps, slams on stages without ramps, snaps in basements without ramps elevators or a
your chin up because you’re brave, you’re someone’s inspiration, you’re someone’s warning, you’re someone’s future, and I would kill myself, they say, I would kill myself if I were ever in your pristine shoes, and they don’t bend low enough to say it to your face instead their words flow out into the air above your head I would pray for death, and it hangs heavy while you pray for an awning a shelter better than the plastic bags you turn into makeshift tarps to cover your
keeps score of the shattered bone, the damaged nerves, the way your hands shake as you grip the control of your chair so hard your knuckles turn as white as the lines pointing the way home, but there is no sidewalk, no way to travel safely, no way no how so you must wait for the van inside the 30-minute window but not inside a building or a house or a booth just on your chair, listening to the music your body makes, wondering how the extensions of your body can move 10 miles per hour, and you are still left behind

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About the Author

Jess Silfa is an Afro-Latine writer from the South Bronx. They graduated with an MFA in Fiction from Vanderbilt University and will begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Cincinnati as a Yates Fellow in the fall of 2023. Jess is currently President of the Disabled and D/deaf Writers Caucus and has been published or has work forthcoming in ANMLY, beestung, Transition Magazine, and others.