On my way back home,
The other day, afternoon,
I skipped past a shadow, then another.
The umbrage hid a jacket that looked and concealed
Like the painted bricks it limned and peeled.
He pushed off the wall, a bit,
Wheezed with the effort, for it
Was the first he’d made for a while, or longer.
“Not sure how to say ‘n‘ let you know
But I’m gonna try this again.”
Try what? And “again”?
My feet put, but eyes on horizon
He kept talking, or trying.
“I think what I mean to say, or get at,
Is that I’ve said this all before, but never yet.
“I’ve said myself, to you perhaps,
This life, or lapse.
It’s warm and soft in my chest, but feels like heartburn.
Thrice a day, I pray, for God take it away.
It’s too general to speak of, too restless not.
“But it’s there in me, and is me,
Deeply, and warmly.
Could I really escape from escape itself?”
I stood attent, not for understanding.
But because I didn’t. Simple verbiage notwithstanding.
“Did you ever see, or hope to,
A glen gently, and it move you?
– No, that’s not it – not at all!
Or: What when a friend leaves, and turns the corner?
A sliver you see, and then no longer.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind! and my back!
But are you trying? To hear that?
… But maybe you are, and that’s the problem …
Don’t mind my words, for they’re not what I mean.
Never what I mean! And that’s the problem!”
His arms now spread width, jacket slumped
Against the brick, and paused, drunk.
So it seemed, and I pulled the wear back up his arms.
He smiled, then sighed.
Looked down, to the side.
The struggle in the speech, never quite the words:
I thought a little, and maybe understood.
Not a bit made sense; from me no response.
But the whole? Yes, I’d tell you as well.
Or at least I hope I could.
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.