The Merge

You and I

Walk a darkened road; shadeless,

Dimly lit by a street lamp,

That we have yet to reach.

You from that side, along the wall.

Me from this, along the curb.

You on the right.

Me on the left.

 

I anticipate

Your fear

With mine.

The one that knots my guts,

And lumps my throat,

And sweats my palms.

The one that you and I have almost always known.

 

Your father warned you about:

The thief, the murderer, the rapist.

My father warned me about:

The cheat, the liar, the oppressor.

 

We merge under the light.

You sidestep toward the wall.

I to the street.

 

My father said never to corner a wounded animal,

And we are the most dangerous kind.

 

© J. Manuel

 

 

 

 

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County Line

County Line

There is a cross on County Line.
Whose? I do not know.
It’s planted in the rocky ground.
Beside it lies the road.

It’s crooked askew and faded.
Its wood exposed off-white.
Next to it lies a marker,
An X by midnight’s light.

I wonder where he was going,
And if he knew somehow,
That I’d be driving by him
To my destination bound?

I detoured this morning.
Spied it in the dawning sun.
A woman bent upon it.
A pink sash around it hung.

Her sorrow full and apparent,
From near then far away,
And there at her feet, a second cross,
Impaled erect and stained.

In the mirror’s light she drifted.
I don’t know where to now.
Should I return this way tonight,
Or continue down the line?

© J. Manuel

Aubergine

He appears before me;

Cloaked in aubergine.

Meters of spun cloth;

Cut, creased, and tapered;

To say forked things.

 

A diatribe in soliloquy;

Sounds all the more convincing.

 

I once stood as he;

Bespoke, bold, beautiful,

Undeterred by truth,

And followed him confidently;

To salvation, to perdition;

Happier either way;

Than where I stand.

 

Stripped, shrinking, ugly,

Marred by knowing;

That the tailor’s marks are temporary;

That the cloth will be unfit;

That I could never afford,

But borrowed things.

That I am ill-suited;

For his desires;

For his promises.

 

For his words;

They offer all,

And nothing.

 

(c) J. Manuel

 

A Politician’s Smile

A Romanian dancer;

Laced in black;

Stilettoed in the corner of my eye;

Sees me.

And I, with a smile, demur.

And she does not.

 

Four languages of love;

I manage two and mumble a third;

Her advantage.

I smile: coy.

She holds her gaze.

 

Bucharest, she says.

Ceaușescu, I reply.

Vaccines, inventions, Romantic alphabet, she explains.

I offer, Vlad Țepeș.

She sees me; uneven footing.

 

A dance?

How’s your math?

Do thick pockets matter?

They never have in Romania—

Not with my smile.

 

A pause; I pause;

She will not convince me.

I open;

Facts are needed to make decisions.

History, she replies;

You’ve made the one that matters;

It sits in the corner of your eye.

 

The music begins;

It thumps, grinds, and strains;

I smile.

A politician’s smile, she says.

A past life of compromise, I reply.

A shame, she says;

There are so many to be made.

 

© J. Manuel