but he’s a crook the outsiders said —
yes, but he’s our crook we happily intoned —
when all you’ve ever done is pay protection,
you’re grateful for the gang that keeps you safe –
until they turn on you
what power is knowledge?
when all knowledge shows us
is the venality and brutality of mankind?
can you unsee the ugliness you’ve seen?
can you stitch together the wounded in the street?
can you sleep through the widow’s keening, or
shelter the orphan through the empty night?
watch the wheel as it spins.
now we lash out at others for their sexuality,
we will not own our choices, because
we assign the responsibility for them to others.
the spin comes up red.
but how with all this plush carpet?
somebody call security!
somebody call roadside assistance!
but it was security
who set this place on fire —
i worked in the hotel kitchen, washing dishes.
days of sweat and steam, and faceless crowds,
who sent me signs of their fetid existence,
through the window of passing cooks and waitresses.
every week, a check for $190.37;
sharing a tiny place with three strangers for
$425.00 per month.
we served meals for two that cost more
than i made in a week, or, sometimes,
than my rent was for an entire month.
their plates were clean because i made them so.
day on day, hour on hour.
none of the beautiful women who ate there,
with their perfect nails and new hair,
ever saw me or wanted me, the would-be writer
with my hair covered by a net,
but i offered them something clean to eat with –
which was often more
than the rich men they were with
would gave them
or ever would give them.
i was just a tiny child, cowering,
as she screamed at me for dropping
a plate on the floor
as i attempted to set the table
standing on my tiptoes
one of my three roommates
was last seen
about five weeks ago.
the last time we spoke,
he borrowed some shampoo from me.
i told him he looked tired.
he said he needed to change his diet,
which consisted mostly of
pop tarts and
yeah, i said —
those pop tarts’ll kill you
and they just might have
but we’re not sure where to look
i left work a few minutes ago,
to walk back to the apartment.
the hookers know i can’t afford them, so,
it’s a quiet walk.
the news is screaming at me
i must have dropped a plate or something
we use the bowling alley wi-fi
i switch the news off, and look instead
to find some company
a profile that reads
“poor man – dead end job – seeks someone
to relieve the emptiness of life and to
reassure him that humanity still exists.”
does not receive a lot of hits
i wrestle with sleep as the images return:
little boys being yelled at by gangster politicians
as my roommate lies dead in a casino, somewhere,
and rich women, and hookers, both turn their noses up at men
who offer neither money,
nor lipstick tips,
nor are able to fix mattresses