This was fun
thirty-five Halloweens ago
when I was set on dressing as a bum
and this was the best way
to ensure the effect.
Now, I’m trying not to look like a bum
for a job interview
and this might be the only way to do that.
A little luck, a sucked-in gut,
got to find something here
that’s better than the last of my old
day to day office wear.
Right size, wrong lapel.
Right lapel, wrong size.
Wrong fabric, wrong cut,
pants too short to work with
or too worn at the heels to cuff…
Thirty-five years ago
this would have been perfect and
this would have been fun.
I would not have been perfect
and that would have been fun.
Now, I need to be perfect
and look like the one
they’re gonna want. Then,
I used to be Somebody. Now,
I don’t look like anyone.
Greater and greater loom
the food bank and the Sally
as anchors to small and downtrodden living.
Larger and larger sound the horns of the cars
around the cardboard signs and their holders
on the traffic islands everywhere.
Wider and wider the eyes of the thinning.
Deeper and darker their sockets,
darker and sharper their cheeks and jaws,
and dumber and dumber their tongues.
Louder and louder indeed the shouting of others
but dumber and dumber the tongues of those
who know what has to follow shouting.
Not frightened by the coming violence,
just silent before it, not wanting to tell of it
for fear of it not coming. For fear of scaring
the shouters back into silence. For fear of them
not learning how they will have to back up the shouting
when the time comes. Until then,
thicker the shadows by the Sally back door –
and longer the food bank lines, silent and waiting.
like a rent-a-cop’s
six D-Cell Maglite
every word of hers
an angry unlit
potentially blinding torch
whupping heavy on my head
on my wrists and knees
like I was a poor concert-goer
caught lighting up in my seat
who backtalked her at the wrong moment
and with a soundtrack at 140 decibels
she did me in one blister at a time
until I crawled out from under
and ran for the exit
that black pipe full of lead
whistling in the air behind me
though all it was after all
was words — electric words
that didn’t even light up the room
but laid themselves hard
on me until I burned and ached
unnoticed by the cheering crowds
knowing I’d feel this one for days
and this time the ringing in my ears
would not be pleasant to recall