From Potato Chips for Dinner
Say a potato chip truck overturns, spilling
bags of chips across the highway.
Some drivers stop to guiltily pick up a few, smiling:
Potato chips for dinner.
How many of them will wake up
in the middle of the night and go into the living room
to sit and stare, wondering
if the darkened house has somehow changed its axis?
Or say the rear door of a Pinkerton truck flies open
and bags of cash drop to the expressway.
One poor schmuck walking by, who happens to be a failed armed robber
from Florida, can't believe his eyes. He grabs an armful
and sprints across a footbridge into a bar, trailed by two cops.
His story: I thought it was my laundry.
Imagine one moment of intense joy or sorrow
singling you out to ask you questions
about your life, and you never regain your sense of equilibrium.
You keep one eye open. You check locks, closets, under
the bed. You divorce and never remarry.
This time, you come back a woman
with a furry and unmistakable moustache crowning
your upper lip. You live out of a grocery cart
on the street—a hallucination
ghosting past department store windows.
At every face that sweeps by, your confused thoughts
disperse: plumes of smoke across a vast plain.
How can you tell them you once moved
among them, that your moustache carries the last vestige
of a past life—carriages, black boots—and that you were once
a military officer condemned to the cell
of his former prisoners.
Listen, Gary: when you're asked to stand
and raise your right hand,
the yellow ticket sticking out
of your breast pocket,
swear on the morbid bird that questions,
every morning, if this day's the one.
And when the elevator operator intones
that everyone's going
to the same place, try and reserve
your sorrow; when a wave
of sympathy flows down the length
of a newspaper, let it reach
only a small part of your happiness:
remember how changeful this human mess is.