This is not my story.
It belongs to the man in front of me in line at the spirit shop, stealing liquor.
Old hands with a handle of rum shimmied into a cloth tote touting
Small Business Saturday.
Sir — firstly, it’s Sunday, and you’re not helping business.
But as they yelled you out the door, casket of amber glass torn from your grasp,
I understood how you came to be —
in Center City
I’ve been scared myself,
but the stress of time and anxiety of facing God every single day
has hit you so much harder than I. And eye to eye,
I see how the diamond-shaped bottle top looked attractive on the shelf.
In removing it to drink you could have used it to cork your achy joints,
plug your malignant growth, stopper your untreated pain.
You could have massaged the liquid down your throat
to fill the empty feeling.
You deserve better than your circumstances, Sir.
And while I stood silent as you left,
now I’ll pray for you.
The city of love has more mathematicians than any other city in the world,
and I’ve fallen out of the mould we’re cultured in:
fed a strict diet of rigor and theory and whispers of beauty,
I was caught starving, and out cast.
So, jerked awake by the cold tears of an evening in April,
I now roam the streets bloated with hunger,
looking for the light in a city
overwhelmed by smell.
If QED is poetry then it’s contradictions I hold holy.
So let there be,
let there be,
a set of poets in Paris more open
than a face, unaware, steeped in peace.
Mothers watch with weary, wary, tired eyes
from doorways and corners on every continent of this godforsaken world.
Stepping on cracks did, in fact, break their backs
but they bite their withered tongues and train their skin to shield the pain.
They watch their children
and the men they’ve become,
and they see girls weathering their withering tongues:
training them to speak in rhymes and riddles
and to speak no ill,
and they see girls growing thick their skins
ridding them of the ghosts of hairy hands
and men hunting them for the thrill.
The daughters get buried alive
in guilt and unheard rage and the weight of blood-ripped skin.
This pain wears and wars their tired eyes,
and as mothers of unwanted kin they cloak their eyes in shadow,
backs breaking from within.