-- for John Tarrant
&&&&&&downtown ghetto Richmond
&&&&&&winter still black
get out of the car, but gas
&&&&&&station attendent disappears
&&&&&&behind the bullet-proof
&&&&&&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
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
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
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
the fat one wants to write
nnnnhis name & number, which he scrawls
nnnnas I think, "getting later & later for dokusan"
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.