Academic journal article TriQuarterly

The Word

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

The Word

Article excerpt

Like a ruin living in its own destruction . . . - Or so I thought until I really looked at him, Newspaper spilling from his overcoat bulging

From sweatstiff clothes he sleeps and eats in, Driven by cold down these cliff-edge stairways Blazing night-long underground: From his bed

Of cardboard and newspaper, his cracked pink palm Nagging for a quarter, his infinitely penetrable Flesh exudes a stink like Jonah in the whale,

The subway's clammy dark smelling of'naphtha, oil, While its flesh of I-beams, girders, concrete Flakes off and blackens beneath his fingernails . . .

- But a ruin? He didn't seem like a ruin That time I heard him shouting, the word booming Back from the blackness of the tunnel while his eyes

Watered from the fumes of his own sulfurous ranting, You you you you! He rose from heaped newspaper, The garbage bag he stuffed with newspaper and bound

Round with rags to make a turban quivering As his body shook, his jaws working, You you you you! hurled at each passerby:

Now he was staggering to his feet, his fury Wired to that single word buzzing and stinging About our heads as he screeched at us gawking

By the yellow line: He came so close I saw his breath steaming, his eyes rolling up Like someone in a fit -. …

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