Pris Campbell, Titanic

Pris Campbell

Layla, one legged hooker
watches Titanic again,
cuts to the scene
when Leo shows Kate
Layla’s Paris twin.
She figures it’s better
to be drawn by a gonna-die
guy in an iceberg-doomed ship
than live in Belle Glade,
dust-bowl of mid Florida.
Poverty Central. HIV rampant.
Pit stop for hundreds
of black-eyed migrant workers
backs bent like wishbones
hands rough as emery boards.

Smoke from burnt cane
drifts through her open window.
A truckload of migrants roars past.
She’s lucky to get two tricks
a night, wishes she could marry,
a rich man, live near the sea.
but no man wants a ‘death till
we part’ one legged hooker
to ride into the sweaty night.

She hits the back button, sucks
on an ice cube, dreams she’s floating
out over that Titanic ocean,
slippers tumbling from two perfect feet.

Author’s Comment : To my best knowledge, Belle Glade remains the poorest town in Florida. During the early to mid-1980s, it had the highest rate of AIDS infection per capita in the United States. My husband and I drove through the town twice in the mid-eighties en route to the west coast of Florida. The town could’ve been abandoned it was so run-down and dirty. Despair radiated from the people we saw on the streets. Surrounded by sugar cane fields, the smoke from bi-annual burning permeates the town for weeks both times. Ash has even reached as far as our home in West Palm. Drug use/sales and hooking were high, both for income and escape. Layla became a symbol of that town for me.

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