...many, many, versions later...
Critiques more than welcome!
An apparition rises a lump at a time, like dough
struggling to overcome the careless measurements
of a baker who has been guzzling beer intended
for beer bread. Fudged on the yeast, or let it go bad.
Rising, the apparition takes on the general shape
of a human. Height --even stooped-- and the amount
of grizzle, say it is a man. The coat that’s wearing
him looks like it was custom-made for a Wall Street
pirate, arms runner, or jetting tycoon, then run over
by an eighteen-wheeler during a rainstorm.
Things hang from it that are not made of cashmere.
Things hang from the hair that reaches halfway down
the back of the coat. Grey as London fog. Everything
in this alley is. Sunlight can’t go through walls.
The man suddenly sinks to the pavement and
goes back to being a ghost. Like he was never
here. Never had a name or an address. Never
had friends and a family and a job. Been defaced,
then erased, The End. And, the person watching
thinks, I am not him. He is not me.
And the apparition closes its eyes and thinks,
He thinks I am not him. He thinks he is not me.
And the watcher moves on.
A woman sleeping against a door marked Do not Enter
is next. She is bundled in so many clothes, it takes several
looks to see there’s a person inside. Clothes are faded
and ragged, but clean. How does she keep them that way?
flits through the watcher’s mind. She is almost bald.
Did she have chemo, or it is malnutrition? How can she sleep
twisted in a knot? How does she walk in those shoes?
Is someone looking for her? Does someone haunt areas
like this and prod passersby to look at photographs
of a woman with an impish grin and sparkling dark eyes
and repeat, repeat, and repeat, “Ever seen her? You
sure? Be older. Probably lost weight. Hair’re gray,
I expect. Just got lost, y’know? Happen to any--
. . .you’re not listening! Somebody has to listen!!
The woman under Do not Enter is almost too bundled
up to see, but it looks like she blinked. Why bother
to look? the watcher thinks. These people are nothing
And the woman thinks, I am you. I am you.
You are ME.
(c) Phyllis Jean Green
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