Sixty years ago I traded a year of my life To save the life of a friend. It was not nobility. At the time I could not imagine myself Without him. You know How kids at that age are. Every month is an eon, Every friend an eternal adventure. Growing up Is what the girl two doors down Did. There was an available magic: I took an altruistic opportunity. Eighteen months later The friend’s father Accepted a job in Georgia, The lot of them moved, Promised to call and never did. It happens all the time. Since my debt was still Unconditional, as best I could I kept track of my friend. He has two daughters, Served twelve years for armed robbery, Is trying to make a life With his third wife, Though she is becoming tired of the beatings. He does not know this. He does not know this Is my hobby, this Is my life’s work. I scan Public records, have his social security number, Know his credit card balances, Log every discoverable indiscretion. If he remembers me at all, it is only As an intrusion in the navigable narrows of his being: A dim, half considered half circumstance That gave him one bearable nudge towards his present. Long nights I sit at my computer screen Gathering the tatters of his existence, Breathing in, breathing out, My heart a mechanical beat, a machine Keeping time, keeping time: Nothing more.
I see a man, waiting For a train at a station, Of no particular import, no Embarrassment of architecture. His gray clothes barely stand Away from the wall and he moves As one long process, as though Rail to rail, bolt to bolt, And back to the beginning again. It would be too iconic If he spoke to no one: he smiles, He mutters to passers by, he avoids Eye contact. His hands crossed Can’t be seen clearly enough To be distinguished as workman’s hands Or a financier’s hands or the broken Appendages of the bare-knuckles boxer. You can make any story you want of him. Trains pass, but he is waiting For his ticketed one. To catch His breathing the light must be perfectly poised. He settles like pounding rain. You will grow tired of watching him: He does not do enough. He waits. He seems to be looking for Something in particular that he knows well. He could be anyone. Resident. Citizen. Out-of-towner. Neighbor. The man who made suggestions About lunch on your last train. He could be me. I could be lingering at the edge Of your world, someone With something to say, lost in thought, Missing my chance to whisper it to you. But this time at this station it is you. You wait to no good purpose On an unremarkable, senseless, but watched platform And the train just now slowing Is yours. Your feet move Like quicklime in water and happily I hear the silly rhythm of your breathing.
©2022 Ken Poyner
All rights reserved
…after years of impersonating a Systems Engineer,has retired to watch his wife continue to break national and world raw powerlifting records. They travel lazily between sites of powerlifting or literary interest. Ken’s four current poetry and four short fiction collections are available from Amazon and just about everywhere else. He has appeared in “Analog”, “The Iowa Review”, “Furious Gazelle” and many other places.