Sometimes things work out in odd ways. I did the Story Slam reading a couple weeks ago, and after the Friday night session, Gina Stewart and Brenda Gambill, better known around Charlotte as the ringleaders of Doubting Thomas, played a set. Gina told a great story about walking through New York City and seeing a guy sitting in the doorway of the Chelsea Hotel cutting himself, and the conflicted feelings she felt before she went over to him to see if he was okay. It shook loose a chunk of poem that I’ve had locked up for a while, and I pounded this out the next afternoon. I read it that night and it got a good reception. I haven’t named it yet, maybe I’ll just call it Chelsea. The filename I saved it under was Wet Concrete, but that doesn’t feel right.
I don’t see him dragging a stolen Food Lion grocery cart uphill
loaded down with a hot water heater and cans picked up
off the side of the road
heading for the recycling center hoping for just enough
to get another bottle of get me through the night.
I don’t see her pay for a corn dog and cup of complimentary ice
with pennies and haul the seven mismatched garbage bags
that make up her whole world out into the heat of the August afternoon.
I don’t see him sitting in the rain mumbling at nothing
and carving names into his wiry limbs with a rusty jacknife
while his own blood drips pink
and runs off down the sidewalk,
puddling for a second around my Ecco loafers.
But I see you
kneeling in front of a wild-eyed Walt Whitman madman
to say “hey man, you alright?”
I look at you
in your duct-taped Doc Martens
thrift-store Dickie’s work shirt
maybe a dollar and a half in your own pocket
while you kneel on the wet concrete
to touch the face of a stranger
and for a minute
before the world washes my vision away again