Friday, January 25, 2008


a man was stabbed while I was
reading Robert Louis Stevenson
in a chair I’d painted yellow

then he sat down near my door

a crowd had gathered
around the bleeding man
whose face was very white
between his beard and hair

he sat on the curb, one arm
around a fire hydrant, the other
touching the blood running from a
meaty wound in his hairy belly

he looked at the blood,
his face stricken with
fierce and terrible wonder

the ambulance arrived and
two black men helped him
lie down on a plastic bed and
breath through a plastic mask

a woman I knew took my arm
and asked me for a cigarette
but I didn’t smoke so we went
to the corner for tobacco

she told me she’d rung the man’s
doorbell and he’d lurched out
into the street with clutching
fingers and crazy far-seeing eyes

and then he sat there on the curb
rocking and saying nothing
until the ambulance arrived and
the two black men hoisted him up

the man at the counter
asked for exact change

she didn’t have it so I
fished a few gray pennies
out of my derelict jeans
and the bitter metallic
smell of the pennies
was like the smell of
the blood in the street

I have a keen nose for blood

outside the shop the woman
lit her cigarette and said
“hey, let’s go for a drink”

“what about the cops?” I said,
“don’t they need to question you?”

“I don’t wanna get involved”

she pronounced the word involved
as if it represented some kind of
mysterious physical condition she
could see in her imagination, like
being prodded into a dark room, or
maybe something tactile and strange
like a shoehorn or an ear trumpet

it was not the word as I knew it,
it was the word as she knew it
with all her shortcomings built in

my neighbors were still
standing in the street like
people clustered together in a
room at a party, excited,
storytelling about the stabbing,
reveling in the sudden balmy
cessation of winter’s darkness

it was too late now for
Robert Louis Stevenson –-
I knew it and despaired

you are allotted only a very small
number of early spring afternoons
to sit in a yellow chair and read a
good book with the window open

inside the dank bar the usual daytime
drinkers were leaning on the
scarred wood, snorting, discussing
the stabbing which had already become
a murder because the victim had died
in the ambulance, plastic strapped
over his mouth, the clear soft
supple plastic tubes filled with his
last unused breaths from the machine

I ordered two strong drinks and we
drank them with incredible aplomb

Kevin Spaide

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