Friday, June 12, 2009
I saw you, dimly, when the mall closed late that night,
unfold your long, dark legs from a battered,
brown Corolla, look quickly in my direction,
then as quickly glance away
from where I walked, arms full, in the uncertain light
of the almost empty lot. You seemed so tall and gray,
cut-offs, dirty t-shirt tight drawn across your chest.
"No, not me, that's just what all my neighbors say,"
coded conversations, red faces, the angry
and distressed who live along my street, fertilize,
water, then mow their lawns,
plant flowers between their porches and curving walks.
"No, don't sink so low; don't react that way."
I looked for others, slowly stepped, studied, casual pace,
stopped to unlock my car.
And you were there. A knife opened in your hand,
blood blossomed from my side. The blade ripped flesh,
glanced off my rib. You took my wallet, money,
credit cards, so much more.
I forgot to listen to that still, quiet voice
murmuring in my ears, the firefight I can still hear
when the wind is from the west, dark hills rising
from the valley of Dak To. When, late at night, you
raped a woman in an all-night store, pistol-whipped her,
hanks of her hair twisted in your hands,
the police there found my wallet in your stolen car,
called me to pick from a line of drafted men,
how could I avoid pointing at you, escape saying,
"He's the one"? You wore the same dirty shirt,
those faded cut-off jeans; your hand holding the knife,
white scarred right knuckle, flashed in front of me.
I got back almost everything, money, cards, all the stuff
that doesn't matter, counted, stored. Yet much can never be
returned: quiet walks down moonlit streets,
sitting silent on lawn chairs on calm purple nights.
H. Palmer Hall
Posted over on Palmer Poems