You can’t say ‘no’
to a bloke in a wheelchair with one leg and a busted right eye
so I reached into my pocket
to pull out some coins
he said he didn’t want money.
You got any grass? He said.
Weed? I answered. No.
Look at me.
You’re asking the wrong guy.
That’s the third time in two years I’ve been mistaken
for a druggie.
Perhaps it’s that flannelette shirt and the
Faraway look I’ve had
since I was a kid.
Maybe I should wear sunnies.
When I wait for her to do a spot of shopping
I wait in the car.
When she’s getting ready to go out,
I wait in the driveway, the sun
like a lamp. with my stash of magazines
between the seats:
my New Yorkers, National Geographics
and that lady in the glove box,
It is my loo, my library, my study,
My five-seated reading room,
My Chapman’s Homer.
My car really takes me places.
Stephanie was out in the garden, chasing chooks out of the vegetable patch. She was some way from us, out on the back porch, so I was surprised that she responded to something I said.
“Yes. I remember when …” and then her voice seemed to get swallowed up.
”What’s that?” I said.
But she stood there helplessly waving her hands as if signalling to us to disregard what she had to say and to carry on our conversation. We did and when my friend left, Stephanie came over and sat beside me.
“What happened out there?” I asked. “Out in the garden?”
“What I was about to say got swallowed up,” she said.
“Like in a sinkhole?” I said. They had been in the news lately.
“Like in a sinkhole.”
“It’s all right,” I said. “Tell me when you remember.”
I met him on a winding path beneath the bridge
leading to the zoo. I had lost my girl. He had lost
the plot though I did not know it then.
We talked briefly beside the banisters as a blue
Kayak passed us by. Before his accomplishments —
his CV baggy with published poems — I
was lost for words. I blubbered something
about his latest book. “Take care,” I remember him
saying. “He’s always had his head in the clouds”,
a fellow poet once said of him. Perhaps that’s why
a week later he climbed to the roof of a big city hotel
and stepped off.