A guy goes by with a long loaf of bread on his human shoulder.
And after that I’m going to write about my doppelgänger?
In the alley, I see a girl looking for meat scraps and orange rinds.
Is now when I’m supposed to write about the Infinite?
Another guy, sitting on the curb, scratches himself, nabs a louse
in his armpit, smashes it. And we’re going to chat about psychoanalysis?
A homeless woman’s sidewalk-sleeping—her foot’s behind her back!
And I’m going to meet a friend so we can talk about Picasso?
Some other guy, swinging a stick at my bones, has invaded my body.
So then, later, at the doctor’s, I’m going to talk about investments?
This crippled dude goes wobbling by with a big kid, arm in arm.
And after that—what? I’m going to read the art reviews?
Someone is shuddering in the dark. Coughing, spitting blood.
When exactly would it be appropriate to theorize the Inner Self?
A roofer falls, he dies, and from now on he goes without lunch.
So now I’m going to invent some flashy new poetic effects?
This diamonds-bought-and-sold guy—he uses rigged scale weights.
So . . . make sure everybody at the opera sees that you’re weeping?
Too near my building, this skinny guy deals heroin laced with fentanyl.
Is this really the time to take alien sperm and astral travel seriously?
The old couple at a funeral, crying as they walk holding hands—
and what’s the protocol when you’re voted into the Academy?
Sitting at the kitchen table, somebody’s lovingly cleaning his handgun.
What exactly is the good of talking about where we go after we die?
A girl’s run over by a local Nazi aiming his station wagon at her.
And we have to hear about “very nice people on both sides” and not scream?
A neighborhood granny goes by counting something on her fingers.
And the biggies are saying we must make sure the banks are OK?
–after César Vallejo (1937)
Copyright © 2021 Reginald Gibbons
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.