At the recovered poets’ meeting
we discovered one in our midst
who’d continued writing
and tossed him out the door.
I secretly met him later, in the street,
his face obscured by raindrops
weeping from his hat brim,
and asked him what he would choose
for his life: Say my poems are a poet’s
and they are poetry. Can I wish for something more?
Say my work is lost in mold-corrupted boxes
in my mother’s basement, comic books
covering like a grave’s leaf blanket;
Say my poems are a universe
built inside my own. Say anything you want
about me, and still I’ll drown
in my cracked windbreaker, in the $200 bucks
to my name. His mother dies
and the house goes to the IRS
and the rest he gambles away in AC
at the thousand-per-hand poker tables.
With what little he has he buys
a tent, and pitches it in the woods
off Route 18. Begins to write
poems by night, a flashlight
in his teeth, drool smearing the ink.
One moonless night, the autumn earth
still leaking the sun’s warmth,
six bum-hunting teens arrive from town.
They collapse his tent
and beat him with pipes and pillowcases
stuffed with unopened soup cans.
After his screams devolve to grunts,
they string gasoline across his body,
flick a match, and stroll home,
pipes on their shoulders, their hands red
in the chill, while behind them, his poems swirl
like bats above a burning heart
bursting from the forest in a bruising dawn;
in nothing like words; above words; words.