Reader’s Forum – A poem by Caroline Donnola, inspired by POVERTY, BY AMERICA

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Poverty*

By Caroline Donnola

Did you ever notice
that if you switch the “t” and the “r”
and remove the “v”
poverty spells poetry?

They say that we’re looking into
this very important issue
but we must study it further.

After my father left,
my mother insisted
we were not poor,
we just didn’t have
any money.

I once had a student
who told me she would
have to miss my class
because she didn’t have
50 cents for her carfare.

I gave her two quarters.
The next day she came to class 
and, on her way out,
she slipped the coins
under my roll book,
hoping her humiliation
might go unseen.

Can you imagine
there is such a thing
as a world poverty clock?
Not surprisingly
we’re running out of time.

There once was
a war on poverty.
It didn’t go well.

An 80-year-old man
was observed washing windows
at McDonalds.
I guess he didn’t have
a 401K.

Have you ever noticed
how politicians 
don’t use the word “poor”?
According to them,
the real victims
are the middle class.

Poverty is like 
a speck of pollen
being dragged around the globe
from bee to bee.

Some religious types
take a vow of poverty.
Couldn’t they take a vow
to wipe it out instead?

She lived in a van
with five siblings
and insisted 
that they were not poor.
I know people
who are worse off, she exclaimed.

Give me your tired
your poor
your huddled masses
then douse them with fire
to see if they live.
Or is that what you do
to witches?

*Inspired by “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens

Caroline Donnola has been writing poetry since childhood. In 2021, she published The Year That Was: Poems for Troubled Times and is currently working on a new poetry collection. She recently edited A Poet’s Journey: Life, Love, and the River by Harry Kresky. Caroline has been an independent political activist for four decades. After retiring from her position at Independent Voting in 2022, she launched a freelance writing and editing business. This month she is teaching a weekly virtual poetry writing class. She can be contacted via LinkedIn or by email at

July 25th at 3pm ET

Join our host, Cathy Stewart, for a Virtual Discussion with author Matthew Desmond


Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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