Dawg, What the Fuck Ima Do With A $20?

Faylita Hicks

“Mr. Floyd’s case began with a report of a counterfeit $20 bill that a storekeeper said he tried to pass to buy cigarettes.”—New York Times, May 29, 2020


Once, when I was twelve, my daddy gave me a $20
for socking a girl in her mouth—I bought a pizza.

He gave me another $20
to give to the convenience store clerk

when I picked up his OE forty—I bought
all the books in the Babysitter’s Club Series.

When I was twenty-four, he gave me some advice.
Said “Ain’t no reason no bitch need to be

sleepin’ on no gawddamn bus stop bench.
Get your shit together. You ain’t no fuckin’ loser.

He gave me $200 to get my hair and nails did—
I bought red heels and went on four dates.

Some time later, some white man gave me a $20
to suck his dick before dropping me off at the grocery store.

When I was thirty-one, I pulled out my last $20
in Jamaica, stuffed that bitch into my shirt

just in case somebody stole my shit
while I was sleeping on the benches

in front of the airport—it was enough
for some rum before my ride got me later.


After 45 days in the county jail,
I stand in front of the judge—

my wrists still sewn together with silver,
my ankles still tied together with steel,

and I learn that I owe the county
something like forty $20s for my case

and the HEB grocery store $24.87
for the original bounced check.

“We take theft seriously around here.”


I could get a $20
for two spoken word cds.

I could get a $20
if I won the poetry slam.

I could get five $20s
if the crowd liked me.

I could get ten $20s
for my laptop at the pawnshop.

I could get twenty-five $20s
if I won the contest.

I could get five-hundred $20s
if I could just get my degree.

But here’s a question for you:

How many cigarettes
do you think I could buy with a $20?

How many loafs of bread
could I buy with a $20?

How many packs of ramen
could I buy with a $20?

How many apples
could I buy with a $20?

How many cartons of eggs
could I buy with a $20?

How many mouths
could I buy with a $20?

How many hours
could I buy with a $20?

How many years
do you think

they would let me rot
for a $20?

Faylita Hicks headshot

Faylita Hicks (she/her/they) is a poet, essayist, and interdisciplinary artist. The former Editor-in-Chief of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, they are the author of HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019) a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry, the 2019 Balcones Poetry Prize, and shortlisted for the 2019 Julie Suk Award. They have been awarded fellowships and residencies from Tin House, Lambda Literary, Jack Jones Literary Arts, and the Right of Return USA, the first fellowship designed exclusively for previously incarcerated artists.