-- for John Tarrant
&&&&&&5:3O a.m.
&&&&&&downtown ghetto Richmond
&&&&&&winter    still black

&&&&&&I get out of the car, but gas
&&&&&&station attendent disappears
&&&&&&behind the bullet-proof
ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppplexiglass window
&&&&&&as two black guys approach
&&&&&&high on blow...
tttttttttttttttttttttttthe tall one wants a dollar
tttttttttttttttttttttttfor gas, the fat one
ttttttttttttttttttttttta cigarette--both happily given
nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnno sense of fear

&&&&&&the tall one goes to his truck
&&&&&&to write down his number
&&&&&&should I hear of a hauling job
&&&&&&(the long-shot, his desperation
&&&&&&to find work "anywhere, even Sacramento"
&&&&&&--he claims eleven children
&&&&&&& it's the week before Christmas

hhhhhhhhhhhhthe fat one is mumbling
hhhhhhhhhhhh& making strange hand gestures
hhhhhhhhhhhhbut when I look into his eyes
hhhhhhhhhhhhthere's a presence between us
hhhhhhhhhhhh& fumbling with his hands again
hhhhhhhhhhhhhe says, "I can't express myself..."

I say,"you're doing fine"
he holds both his arms out, wide
saying,"it's so big"
"yes," I say,"it's big and beyond words"
"you understand," he says,"most people don't understand"
then he gives me a hug
until the tall one comes back
but his pen is hollow
where once was its cartridge
so he returns to the truck

ttttttttttttttttthe fat one says,
tttttttttttttttt"I'm a fisherman too, I come from the sea"
tttttttttttttttt"brother, we all come from the sea"
ttttttttttttttttwhich brings him to hug me again
ttttttttttttttttuntil the tall one returns
ttttttttttttttttwith wet, blue numbers
tttttttttttttttton a tatter of paper, barely legible

nnnnnow the fat one wants to write
nnnnhis name & number, which he scrawls
nnnnas I think, "getting later & later for dokusan"

nnnnttttttthen realize
nnnnttttttit's happening


This poem first appeared in Blind Donkey, and was later anthologized in What Book!? Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop, (Parallax Press) Gary Gach, ed.