Since that he was mugged
and his wallet and cell-phone were stolen,
he’s been wandering through
these city streets,
pockets empty, talking to no one.
It’s as if he’s still under orders
from that mugger –
flop about like some disembodied flunkey
or I’ll shoot you.
Don’t take a shower.
Or show up for work.
Fall behind on your rent.
Or I’ll plug you between the eyes.
He’s sitting on a bench,
his yellowy face
staring down at the weeds
that poke through cracks in cement.
His shirt’s stained.
His shoe laces are undone.
You just know that mugger was serious.
He's not a cop
though maybe in his head he is.
Behind that thick, unsmiling face
there could even be a soldier
standing watch outside camp
or a private eye
with bad guys lying low in fear of him
and dames dripping off him like sweat.
He patrols the third floor of the mall,
in blue uniform,
a badge on his chest that says "Security",
though he imagines it reads "US Marshall".
And there's no gun in his belt
though, in his mind,
there's been everything from a six shooter
to a Glock tucked tight in there.
Easy to make fun of him
as he paces back and forth
between the shoe stores and the food court,
but there's a guy I know
who scribbles words on paper
and believes, in his heart,
that it's the best thing ever written,
that there's a great author
eating bourbon chicken on rice
off a Styrofoam plate
or window-shopping sneakers,
if they only knew.
I say good morning to the security guy
as I pass him,
not out of sympathy,
and certainly not ridicule.
We just exchange sad truths.
it's a not a world
that knows who it's dealing with.
In the meantime,
a man's got to be what he's not.
Andrej Bilovsky (he/him) is a poet and performance artist. Former editor of Masculine-Feminine and Kapesnik. Andrej recommends supporting the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.