The Other Side

December 23, 2011
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There’s a Man out there who speaks in forgotten words.
At the local gas station,
I stand behind him in line, nodding my weariness,
eyeing his collared shirt and pleated khakis.
behind closed doors, he sips his coffee with his old friend,
and across the counter, past the penny jar,
past the cheap cigars and
the lottery tickets stained with morning sunlight,
the Man makes sure to say hello
to the cashier, her skin darker than his,
Her wrinkled face stained with the tears of her family,
Her southern drawl a bit more pronounced,
Her manners a bit sloppier, more homely –

but she’s dignified, he thinks.
She knows suffering, she doesn’t have to perceive it
She knows not opportunity, or prestige,
but she has her family, she has her store;
like everybody else,
she’s cultivated some of her own manipulations over the years;
but she always makes sure
that every Sunday she has an excuse to go thank
the pastor and the good lord,
and afterward she dances home,
uttering a delicate magnetism to her loved ones,
to her family, friends.
walking past the rusted chain link fences, the power lines,
past forgettable landmarks, past collective unity,
past years that made
a hard life bearable,
just going home on tested, cracked sidewalks,
where love and suffering and holiness manifest
to become her life.

The Man, after leaving the store every morning,
feels his coffee turn to ash in his mouth,
and as he unlocks his sedan with its leather seats,
he thinks of the sunsets of his Youth,
the camping trips and mountains
that once made him feel significant.
turning the ignition, he drives toward complacency,
wishing for something more authentic.

On an early September morning, the cashier will die.
She will be buried in a nondescript cemetery,
aside nondescript people,
the people who make up this world,
aside her Lord and aside her love,
the soil rich, furiously timeless.
at the funeral, everyone will see a smile flicker across her
cold, wise, delicate lips, and some will swear
that her eyes fluttered open, fleetingly,
when a White Man, hilariously out of place
in his tweed blazer and tailored pants,
the smell of weather hanging about him,
stopped by the casket to search for himself,
to search for the soul of someone he never really
took the time to talk to, at least not outside his dreams.
he will toss a lily into the casket the same way
a child might toss a coin into a wishing fountain,
and, buttoning his coat,
he will step outside into the morning sunlight,
the same sunlight he’d known for so long,
the same sunlight that illuminated the cashier’s face
for all those years.
as he gazes into the morning sun,
a delicate snow will begin to fall,
and the Man will smile,
Feeling Death, Life, Everything At Once.
breaking out into a run, his eyes will frantically
search the hollow, silent street for a payphone,
remembering a girl from high school, a girl he was always
too scared to Love.

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