I remember, I stood in my two windowed office,
looked out over the crooked apple tree,
the concrete walk where the men
congregated to smoke, to plan
beer and crack runs, trade money
for chips and smack, Nyquil caps
I remember, I heard the third floor stomp
a distant holler of
numbers chanted forward, reverse, and
the clank and buck of the car wash sign,
haywire in the wind. And I remember,
and I thought, this will never end.
We never spoke more than five words.
Tall, willowy, ghost-man. I saw
you perched, pushed back on your bed,
D22, you half-laid there,
fully clothed, boots and winter coat, fur-lined
hood around your head. I tried to find
you, looked into your eyes, said in full-throated
welcome, “Good morning, sir!”
You might have turned your head, muttered
a greeting. You might have been speaking
to me, or the men behind me, those invisible
sirs, ghosts themselves. Were they beckoning
to you, cursing, or damning you?
I will never know. You left after a month,
quiet as you came. I hope you are not
alone on the street. And I know, regardless
of who you might think is with you,
that you are, in fact, alone.
Butterflies by Photographer David Pearson
These old bums, drunk, half crazy,
and I’m not kidding, riding rivers
of psych meds and 40s,
marked over with bruises and curses.
These old bums, on their way
to the death house, passing each other by
sometimes speaking, mumbling, eyeing
each other with suspicion, fright, lust—
it’s all the same, river of despite, river of loss
rivers of Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ativan, Haldol,
Haloperidol, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Benztropine, Prolixin,
it’s all the same, it’s all the same.
But these old bums, sitting on the porch
memorizing the lines running down their faces—
these bums play! One rises to the other’s occasion,
30 years gone, these bums, these old bums
love each other.
Who would think, this hot tight fisted day
could birth this chaos love, sliding home.
On my last day, it’s 5 p.m., and
I’m trying to leave. I’m trying to extract
my body from this longing.
I am trying to leave, and I see
him as he shuffles up the walk.
He is holding his cane like a baton in one hand,
and the bag with the six-pack of highboys
like a threat. I’ve come back
for the third time, finally returned my keys,
said good bye. I’m heading out, and he’s
sitting on the porch. I say,
"You can’t have that beer here."
He smiles at me, takes the beer and downs it
in one slow deadly pull, crushes
it in his hands, and passes it to me.