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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