By JED MYERS
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. —Whitman
His sun-toughened ruddiness stands out
in the spring shade as his face enlarges
before a dim backdrop of the trees’ quiet
columned arcade. His dust-wake shows
as he shuffles through a few beams. Hunched
in a blue parka I’d bet is his bedroll,
he’s close enough now I can smell
his private atmosphere of tobacco,
seasoned sweat, tooth rot and rotgut and
I don’t know, mold of wet foam cushion
pressed into service beneath him on the dirt
not far in this park. He’s stopped
on the path in front of me, swollen hands
hanging purple and busy with tremor,
hair a dark mat like tide-river weed
where the ebb’s left it flat in the night,
cracked lips undulant like the worms
Haldol brings with it, eyes
double-glazed under smudged hefty lenses
and froth-white cataract clouds. Out
through the yellow-browned gate of his teeth,
his thick tongue squeezes a crowd
of sounds, a spittled and rasped
Know where the Safeway is?
I envision a few crumpled one-dollar
bills and a ballast of quarters waiting
to spill from his pockets, on the counter
a bottle of golden toxin. I picture
the nip and the guzzle out through the nozzle
noosed in brown paper, and the doze
back in his leaf-mulch-carpeted cove.
I see him blinking up at the sparkling
canopy. He is eased, and knows
he swims Earth’s night-and-day helix home.
I can’t think where the Safeway is,
not while I look into this holographic
mirror, this him, this other self’s
face I wish to disown, to make his
alone. For which it’s too late—by now
we’re woven into entanglement, even
though we remain unnamed to each other
and curtains of haze lie between us.
This is the braiding of fate. In the shimmer
the wind-shaken leaves make, stranger
to stranger, though we’re each veiled
in the murk of our sloughed thought-scales,
our looking takes us a moment
upriver, into the spawn beds of suns,
spore-mist before all the divisions,
where we float till we’re each born
to one street or father or war or another,
and where we must still hover after
the pulsing’s done. I don’t recall
where the Safeway is till I’ve veered off,
sidestepped around him, and the daze lifts.
The market’s a half-mile past the park
the way he’s already drifting. He calls
from behind, I know you from somewhere.
I don’t turn my head, but mutter True,
as if, through the star-water, he’ll hear.
Jed Myers lives in Seattle, where he works as a psychiatrist with a therapy practice and teaches at the University of Washington. His poetry collections include Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), the chapbook The Nameless (Finishing Line Press), and a chapbook forthcoming from Egress Studio Press. His work has received Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Literal Latte Poetry Award, Blue Lyra Review’s Longish Poem Award, and, in the UK, the McLellan Poetry Prize. Myers’ poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Summerset Review, Harpur Palate, Crab Creek Review, Cider Press Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Common Ground Review, and elsewhere. He has recently been guest poetry editor for the journal Bracken.