Volume 31, Number 4


The air is cool (some might say cold)
but it’s summer and I’m only ever comfortable
in the long struggle to attain warmth
and yet warmth is not what I strive towards.
I’m in the old neighborhood. It’s gentrified now
and the rich folks who ran us out are driving
new cars and listening to rap music loudly,
smiling faces glimmering like skyscraper windows
too far away for me to ever touch such light.

I drove here in a car sputtering misgivings
while I prayed to Jesus. I caught a whiff
of nostalgia or maybe brake fluid as I parked
at the mechanic’s. I’m feeling rather hopeless,
my car drives like a heart attack
striking a Shetland pony. I work hard
but only us lazy bastards say that. Still,
I wish the money would stay longer and not leave
at all hours of the day and night like
a wayward teenager getting wasted with friends.

Today, my daughter saw me break down and cry
as I opened the bills. She’s only three but
she hugged me and said, “I love you, daddy.”
And maybe that’s what keeps me here,
waiting for the bus home. I see it now,
coming around the corner. A homeless man
approaches and says, “listen, if you ain’t got
much money to help me with I can always
put you on a payment plan.” I laugh
as I shed everything to become a passenger.

—Benjamin Schmitt