WAKING FROM SLEEP

Still groggy
ffffffffffffffffffrom an afternoon nap
I recall the only murderer
I have actually known

old mulatto, Pall Mall dangling
from lips    hands
carrying plywood
sssssssssssssssisheets
atop blue hardhat,
tttttttthe rooftop construction site
where I was nearly murdered

It was 1968 & I had been warned
tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttto have my long hair cut
by Monday
"or something bad was gonna happen"

& here it was, Monday
right at the lunch whistle
when I felt it
a metal punch from
nowhere, jolt
that pierced
me to the core

I stumbled down damp
smelling
cccccccconcrete
ssssssssssssssssteps
aaaai& was rushed
to the hospital
wwwwwwwwwhere I was born,

small angry
volcano crater
rising

around the puncture wound in my chest

the young life passing
bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbefore me
details, numbers, images
flashing in with synchronistic
finality,  I kept recalling
the mulatto laborer
wwwwwwwwwwwwho'd passed me the warning

that he'd done time
(as he put it) for
pppppiiippppppp"putting a man to sleep"

--that turn of speech
lodged, has stayed with me
like the bullet fragment
still embedded
beside my lung...

Now the man I am, who was almost slain
grows alarmed
nnnnnnnnnnnniin making a roast
beef sandwich
when it first appears
there's no potatoe chips to be found

Munching them, my thoughts
go to the woman I love
what a creature!  who cannot
put numbers to things, cannot reckon
time or how many
of anything there is --
even cups in a recipe
for which she is famous...

Whom, upon probing, will name
most of her crimes
--without resort to euphemism,
but can't say of anything
exactly  how
bbbbbbbbbbbig, far, or much,
can't predict when
--growing indignant when asked,
as if the questioner
had been missing the point,
or should know better by now

Her precision,  a watery way
of knowing
ttttttttttttttttttthe instant
some small tide
of feeling has turned,
sensing how/when
like  invisible bullets
new energy
has entered the body

But she will tell you
it hasn't always been this way
she's had to work
hhhhhhhhh...hhhihard
to get where she is,
that once she was numb --

feeling imprisoned
behind a thorny hedge
that rose
aaaaaaaaaround her wound
(which even now
can hold love at bay)

like the unconscious beauty
nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnin the fairy tale
still awaiting
the kiss
that will wake her
from sleep