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where paupers sleep like kings

we’ve all of us our notebooks
and pens and ink scribbling our
baleful magic, dull hallucinations,
but thinking what? the sun will stop
tomorrow and follow us around like
some eternal high noon spotlight of
glory? as if our sons and daughters will
stand before leather-bound volumes
at Columbia University and proudly
flaunt our name, our works, or even
just sit quietly alone in an attic in
Vancouver, Omaha, Schenectady
and read through the daily grind
and the mourning, the struggle,
the spherical midnight jazz-thought
popping and splaying across the page,
a poem so strong that no one will
ever set eyes upon it, only years later,
a little fame…what fame, no fame;
we will be unread into the grave
and then we’ll sit on our stones in
the rainy afternoon and read to
each other all down the line, ‘cause
surely we’ll be known in the next life
or maybe the one after that, right?

     *       *       *

Red flag

no one sees the man with the red sleeping
bag curled and slung across his shoulder edging his
morning way down the sidewalk; no one sees
the man lighting a cigarette, dirty jeans in pecan tree
shade behind a bus bench empty but for white bird-
shit advertisements and empty pecan shells
picked clean by squirrels watching the man
with the red sleeping bag from high branches
as he smokes and remains unseen by any one
person driving or sleeping or skiing or killing
all the others who are working or slaving
or cooking or riding the bus that passes
by the bench, and the man no one sees
hardly looks up, not expecting the bus
to really stop anyway, to really sing its brakes
for him, and he picks up his backpack and begins
to fade into the highway overpass shadow
heading off to grow his beard in some other
town where he will eventually die in a drainage
ditch and all someone will see of him is a red
sleeping bag caught in the limbs of a tree
the next time it floods in Memphis

Discuss    About the Author   Read More


About James H Duncan


James H Duncan is a New York native and the editor of Hobo Camp Review. He is currently engaged to his Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter, but admits to ravenous affairs with various bottles of wine on the side. If you see him minding his own damn business at a railway platform, that's called research, so leave him be. Apt, Reed Magazine, Zygote In My Coffee, and The Battered Suitcase, among others, have welcomed his poetry and short stories. More at http://jameshduncan.blogspot.com

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