Inspirations

Inspirations

John Brehm

He’s probably been rejected thousands

of times and still he’s undeterred,

the smiling, round-faced black man

who wheels his cart full of poems

through the subway car and sings out:

“Ladies and gentlemen, these poems

are by my wife, and every one of them

is beautiful.” Indeed, they are.

Bordered in red and printed in swirling

romantic type, they bear such titles

as “For You, Sweetheart,” and “Our

Love Will Last Forever.” “Five dollars

for the cards and ten dollars for

the books is what we ask,” he says.

“Everybody needs some inspiration.”

And this, also, is true, especially

on this train that snakes us underneath

the city, where everyone

is exhausted and everyone consents

to the unspoken rules of the place,

each of us assuming, as if by command,

the blanked-out demeanor of the dead.

“Inspirations?” he asks, leaning

slightly forward toward a man

who stares at the floor, neither

embarrassed nor annoyed, though these

are the available feelings. “Go fuck

yourself and your wife” is what

someone here might be thinking.

“These poems are by my wife,” he says

again, “and every one of them is beautiful.”

And now I see her, sitting at her desk,

lifting her eyes above the buildings

to a world of hearts and flowers

and tenderness beyond abuse.

She must be there now, churning

out the verses, knowing he’s here

speaking of her, carrying her message

to those of us who need it most,

his cart of poems full to overflowing.

JOHN BREHM’s poems have recently appeared in Epoch, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, and in Best American Poetry 1999….

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