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John Thomas

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)