Crouching in my arms against this old army shirt,
breathing the tin taste of my day's sweat, she
says nothing and concerns herself with her pre-
carious balance, the tightwire she walks from
fleshcage to fleshcage.
This is her scene, and it is quite right among the
bongos sounding through the wall,
John the Lush pounding bad riffs on a borrowed drum,
splintered, frenetic, out on the slippery edge of
And up the airshaft sounding the toilet-edge vomit
of a nameless drunk, Gallo tokay, you can puke all
day, tired past dismay.
This is her scene, this quiet crouch within bad sounds,
surrounded by her ten cent shoes and her yesterday's
pants and her just-in-case jar of peanut butter, this
crouch against my shirt with her nose in my sweat.
She is nervous on three bennies and has tentative soft
fantasies about spooks and she will stay a little
while if I don't hold her too tightly.
I have lived like a priest in this bare room three
months and to have her here, a sad tired robin,
well, I feel honored and a little incredulous.
Orange lipstick on my pillowcase and the smell of her
in my beard are enough to make me hum in private, a
luxury of long ago.
And if the poem fails it is not because her smile is
not beautiful to touch.
From The Floating Bear No 13 (1961)