Empathy hung out with us Friday night on the corner.
He was older than the guys, salt and pepper hair,
street-wizened jeans, and refreshingly articulate
considering the Wild Irish we were sharing.
No one knew him or paid him much mind except me.
He had broken off with a neighborhood babe,
was unemployed but had prospects,
and yes, he could be available for poker or gin.
He said he wrote poetry and a few songs,
free verse mostly, but lately seemed stalled.
We all come back to the words though …
don’t we? Know what I mean?
He took another slug of red, rubbed his thumb
hard across the bottle, looked me eye to liquid eye,
It’s like nipples on fingers, tongues from the veins.
When it’s ripe it seems limitless, flawless then calm.
He wandered off leaving me stupefied.
I had scrawled those exact lines earlier that afternoon.
Pondering how different this would all seem tomorrow
and how sober I now thought I’d be,
an older guy with a long gray beard
carrying a legal pad and a pencil the size of his forearm
stepped into the light of the drug store sign,
extended his hand, introduced himself as Memory.