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Detail of a one dollar bill, showing pyramid and eye at the top.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I was a dollar short of changing my situation,
Taking ownership of my dreams.
Damn, I was close but no cigar.
They wouldn’t let me slide on a dollar,
They didn’t know that as long as I owe them, they would never be broke.

They thought I was trying to shortchange them.
One of them told me that four quarters, ten dimes, 20 nickels, and 100 pennies
Could be the solution to a hungry man’s problems,
A pedestrian’s travel fare, an addict’s smoking habit, and an alcoholic’s craving.

A dollar to a kid at the candy store is that child’s wealth.
Not having enough to make sure that each child receives a dollar
Will wedge a war amongst them,
And a temper tantrum toward the one passing them around.

So I replied that I was tired of coming short of my goals,
Unable to get the items or services required to improve my life.

So I cope with all of this by drinking the occasional short dog
Accompanied by a bag of raspberry shortbread cookies.
I explained to him that due to the pandemic, I couldn’t go to work that much
Therefore I was short this month,
And my supervisor did not pay me for all of the hours that I worked.

I said to him
Now understand what a difference a dollar can make.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Kenneth Moore is an African-American writer and poet. He is the author of the book “Subconscious Poetry” (available at and has had one of his poems published in the book “Silent Screams: Poems from Uncharted Territory” by Dr. Unique Shaw-Smith. He is incarcerated in California.