A DP Weekly Writing Challenge – Lunch
From across the crowded plaza our eyes locked.
He looked like a bum, like some burnt out
old building where a man used to stand.
A quarantined corpse, gutted, not yet demolished.
Busyness professionals scamper across polished
marble tile all the while ignoring him.
He never looks up at anyone, just down
at the ground as black leather loafers
and polished pumps scatter around him.
His rusty hinges give most an urge to cringe,
like the purge surrounded by the binge.
Now I don’t know why but he lifted tomato
pastey eyes toward mine and his beady pupils
burned a hole in my soul like bitter embers.
If I could have I would have walked the other way.
And as I tried to slide by his side, he said,
“What I wouldn’t give to have veins like yours kid.”
And those words slid from his tongue like a
lugee from his lung, spit at me through vacant gums
and eyes like poisoned slits, burned out, tired, ready to quit.
And he reached for my arm and he poked at my vein
and laughed like a man slowly tortured insane.
Around us the city hurried on with its day,
and I on my way, wondering what in the fuck
am I supposed to say to this gross amalgamation
that told me so much more than I wanted or
needed to know. ”Uh, thanks bro, but I gotta go.”
* a note about this poem
I used to dabble in spoken word and poetry slams in college, even though poetry was never really my thing, not to mention that I had a ridiculous fear of speaking in front of crowds of people. This particular poem earned me an invite to compete in the finals for Santa Cruz County. And I was actually one of the semi-finalists in the competition as determined by audience applause, but unfortunately I had only three poems memorized and had already the performed them all by the time I got called back up. The other contestants had volumes of material catalogued into their memory banks, and I hadn’t expected to get called back up to the stage. This is the only one I can still recite from memory, and sometimes I’ll still share it if I ever find myself in a location with an open mic.
Here’s the spoken version