A map of Alaska with the Statewide region highlighted.
Organization: Alaska Legal Services Corporation - Fairbanks Office , Alaska Legal Services Corporation
City: Fairbanks , Anchorage
Region: Statewide
Program Area: Human Services
Grants Received:
2016: $25,000  2002: $25,000
2004: $14,068
2003: $80,885

Providing equal representation forlow-incomeAlaskans

Mission Statement
Alaska Legal Services Corporation

Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) is a private, nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Alaskans. Our efforts improve the quality of life for our children, our families, the elderly and disadvantaged, and our community.
Editor's Note: The following poem has been reformatted to fit this page

"The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from having nothing to hide."

- W. H. Auden

Somehow I think when the Kennedys have to go to court
and their car won't start and they ask their neighbor at ten minutes to nine
when he's going to work down near the courthouse anyway,
he doesn't mumble something about living with the
choices we've made.
Like I really choose to keep this 84 Nova (which means "does not go" in Spanish)
with a rebuilt starter that sounds like grinding rocks on cold mornings,
and he gets into his brand new diesel Volkswagen then eases out of his driveway,
leaving me standing with Kelsey, who is now a half an hour late for the babysitter,
and a thin wisp of exhaust that I swear to God smells like french fried potatoes
and all I want to do is cry, but I don't because it will scare Kelsey who is generally
really brave about all this stuff and she doesn't need to see me blubbering,
so I go back inside and get some bus tokens and try and call the Court
but of course there's no one there who can help
even though they're nice and all, so I just pick Kelsey up
and walk to the bus stop in my good shoes through the rain.

A photo of the ALSC Anchorage office computer lab.Spacer Image These things don't happen to the Kennedys.
Not that their life is a bowl of cherries
but they've got better back-up plans,
that's all I'm saying.
I've got one job for rent and food and another that just about covers
daycare and the medicine Kelsey needs for her seizures.
I don't complain about it because it's better than living with Bobby
in that mildewed basement apartment underneath the drunk who
tried to juggle bottles at three in the morning every single night
and where I had to hide the guns about every other week when Bobby was
in one of his moods. But now he won't pay his child support
because he says he doesn't like the visitation
we agreed to, but I'm not buying that,
not when she stayed with a babysitter
two of the last three nights he had her.
"I got a life now," he yells at me from the background, just before
his skinny wife says not to call again and to take it up with their lawyer
then hangs up the phone while their awful little rat-faced dog
starts barking like the world's about to end.

A photo of the ALSC Anchorage office sign.Spacer Image So, I went to Legal Services and got a lawyer.
I didn't like her at first because she asked a lot of questions
and I thought she was going to turn out like my neighbor
telling me everything I've done wrong in my life, like there was a chance I didn't know
that marrying Bobby was a bad idea or that going back to school was going to be
so much harder than finishing it up. It's not like I don't think about these things every night
while the clouds shred themselves against the hillsides
and I'm trying to rock my little girl
to sleep while seizures skitter over her body like rats
and I think that maybe this time
it might never stop.

I've got a lawyer now.
She talks to me like I'm a human being.
She keeps talking to me even after I was rude to her that time
then, when I apologized she seem surprised, grateful even,
then I laughed and sat back in my chair while she told me we were going to win
and I felt warm somehow,
like I wasn't out in the rain
or angry all the time
and for the first time in my life
I realized that this is what it's like
to have somebody on your side,
and from where I'm sitting
that's just about as good as being lucky
or blessed for that matter.

John Straley is a writer and former private investigator who lives in Sitka. His first book, The Woman Who Married a Bear won a Shamus award for the best first mystery in 1992 and his sixth, Cold Water Burning, was short listed for the 2001 best novel prize. His essay, Wobblies in Alaska: Who Owns An Uncaught Fish, was included in John Leonard's 2003 collection, These United States. He lives with his wife Jan, and son Finn in their house near Old Sitka Rocks.