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For Gary

I walk down the street
towards you
I lose my nerve;
Walk past your alcove
Walk back again
Say hi
And then
“What happened?”
You look at me with indignation

“What happened when?
What happened today?
What happened yesterday?
What happened three months ago…?”

I’ve made a mistake.
I should get out
I have to leave…
What ever happened to don’t talk to strangers?
“Why am I out here?”
I relax.

“I used to be a designer.
An architect. I’ve been published in Azure and Blueprint.
But then I lost my wife. She locked me out and that was that.
I lost everything…

“I started drinking, joined the military…
Got out. And the checks they promised me?
They’re nothing. Not enough to live on.
Not even close.

“People yell at me
‘Get a job’
But no one will hire you
If you haven’t showered in a couple days,
Haven’t shaved in a couple months,
And haven’t been able to buy a suit in years.
And what are you supposed to put in the address field on an application?
Harvard square sidewalk?”

I search my wallet.
Nothing.

“And people walk right past,
Keep their eyes
Looking straight ahead…
Pull their kids to the other side of the sidewalk…”

I listen.
I listen for hours.
You smile at me.


“Nice talking to you”





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