Near an Alley

Frank approaches me
pushing a rattling shopping cart
containing a broken television,
crumpled tarp, and grocery bags
filled with junk.

His eyes dart and he reeks
of urine and sweat.
Frank tells me he knows me,
had seen me around.
Tells me I’d given him some money
just last week on this very street.

You have beautiful eyes, he tells me
I’m not gay or nothing, but you have real beautiful eyes.
I told mom and dad that but I don’t
think they believed me, he says
staring anxiously at his hands.
They are covered in pen markings; senseless scribbles
that only make sense to him.

Will you give me some money, he asks—
his eyes sad and heavy.

It’s not payday yet.
Rice cakes and an apple are what I have
to offer Frank, who I later find out
has no teeth. Not a single one.
Go figure.

The next week I see Frank at a bus stop
by the coffee shop. He is smoking a cigarette
and laughing with his friends.

 

—N.A.

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