The Absence of a Diet Coke

Can I get diet capitalism?

The Absence of a Diet Coke
Photo by Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

by Alex Gurtis

Outside the ruins of an old factory, children play among the

shards of glass. A friend once told me, "sadness is spiritual

organ failure." The inability to pay my rent or buy groceries

while working for the state is state failure. For three weeks

I’ve checked my bank account for a paycheck. Working in

education is a type of trauma. What is an economy where a

credit card rejects a Diet Coke? Can I get diet capitalism?

Even the best of us lives on the happiness of borrowed time

like overhearing a countdown but never getting to

experience the payoff of a single job that pays for the house,

food, and what little enjoyment life can find. Is America,

America if we replace her rotting planks of money with fruit

and wine? An email tells me to be patient. I forward it to my


Alex Gurtis is the author of the chapbook When the Ocean Comes to Me (Bottlecap Press, 2024). A ruth weiss Foundation Maverick Poet Award Finalist, Alex received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. His work as a poet and critic has appeared in or is forthcoming in anthologies and publications such as Autofocus, HAD, Identity Theory, and Rejection Letters.