2022 Spring Poetry Contest Third Place Winner: Sarah Lee “Disability’s Power.”

Their condescending tone is the root of the problem 

they don’t understand 

they don’t get eye fatigue from reading tedium 

grow cold as they wait hours for their bus ride home 

scatter possessions trying to find bus tickets 

They can work a fast food joint 


without familiar panic surfacing 

worrying they’ll make it wrong 

can’t find 

the carrots 

can’t keep up 

not fast enough 

can’t remember 

ingredient measurements 

can’t read 

the signs for a reminder 

can’t locate 

a manager to ask 

can’t trust 

the managers anyway 

register buttons blur 

seek respite in the quiet breakroom 

only dare to take two minutes 

lest they discover 

—“you aren’t getting paid just to stand there”– 

—“alright, you really need to work on speed”– 

can’t discern the exit 

can’t hit escape 

can’t quell anxiety 

too expensive to keep 

not worth staying 

can’t argue 

energy sapped 



After work in the late August sunshine, I crouch, exhausted. I wait for my ride home. 

I can feel the cold cement below me. 

I can smell juniper. 

I can taste the pickle, pepperjack, chicken and bun flavors playing on my tongue. 

I can hear cicadas singing in the trees, far above the red roof. 

I love that sound.

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