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College Boy

ISSUE:  Autumn 1995
I served for two years,
a day laborer at
odd jobs at an odd
time when the summer solstice
and the north south
of the sun stood still.
I swept counter and garden,
the home-owning women,
their noses east of the moon,
smelled mulch in me
when they fingered me left and right
like a hoe. I grew beans
and grass and each morning
shaped up at the doors
of the agency, numbered and nameless,
two weak arms
chosen by looks.
The hoboes whistled and sang.
One made no
friends in the hours but chattered
sporadically like rocks
jarring each other.
Their habit was now, mine
the future. The good women
gave nothing for lunch.
We chewed dust bubbles
and air, our pockets crusted
with yesterday, the stiff
clothes, the sweat, my raw
palms, I flagged off
in corners because I could
not say what I was. Not skilled
in significance, I settled for living,
the sweet meat of the summer
a vegetable that grew
to a stalk, to a bulb, then burst.
I cradled the seconds in my arms
in the exquisite emptiness. . .
the dirt bucket I hauled
to the roses that cut deep
in my fingers and left a brown
line that bleeds when I sleep.


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