Thursday, December 4, 2008



If it was your face I saw
only once, I would remember you
as the beautiful stranger I saw
only once, on the Greyhound
shuttling past me at 2 a.m.
in the city where I chose to live

alone for months. Strangers answered doors,
would not let me enter their homes
wearing my own good clothes. I had to change
the shovel-shape of my incisors, disguise
shadows that wandered beneath my eyes.

The is nothing that can demand itself
the exact way sleeplessness demanded
your presence on the streets, a shadow
I could never change or redefine
in some simple way. I always felt
your wrists pressed against my chest

as I lay under newspapers, pulling
old clothes from shopping carts
and paper sacks like a street magician
making dimes appear in the hands
of generous tourists. I wept
dimes into quarters and made a living

on the corners. I played four-string guitar
for dollar bills tucked into a wine glass.
I gave all my blood to the plasma center
hoping for enough to get bus fare back home.
Wearing new clothes and dark hair, I sat
at the depot watching all the buses roll out

east to Chicago past all the small towns
miles apart. Single lights in windows flared
as I reached my hand out from the pane
of this bus where I once saw your face
almost, dreamed of running along the rails

reaching for the last train traveling back
to the simple dress you wore. I could feel
my eyes breaking under the wheels of the train
shuddering through all the tunnels between
those empty places, where grey men sat on wooden
crates around solitary fires. I sang

the blues like an old black man done bad,
my hands wrapped around the harp, blowing
night air back into lungs of the lonely
red-faced men who gathered around me in circles.
I wandered the world other people called Seattle

and dreamed of mirrors centered
on the walls of your room, I walked
up to those mirrors and saw myself
as you might see me
if I were to stand in your window
at midnight. You played the piano for me,
softly touching the keys as if they were skin.

You stood to greet me as I entered your
room, dissonant and foreign. I gathered ash
from the road I'd traveled, placed it at our feet.
You led me to the window that could take in
the whole landscape or the fine edge

of a flower petal on fire.
We raised our arms to the wind, silently
my mouth was surrounded with words
I could never speak
alone. We had come together
to call this space arched in our backs home.

Sherman Alexie........from The Business of Fancydancing

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