So Late

The bread was bitter, but he ate it,
smiling a little to himself, bending
over it at the curb, a few crumbs
scattering for the pigeons cocking eyes
at him.

He would have dug a riverbed from
our desert to the seashore if we had
wanted to sail around the world,
or cut a wine press from the solid rock
to see what we could bring in from the fields.

If you wanted, if you listened, if you
took the time to wait, he’d speak
what he had learned from listening,
with a voice grown dark and deep,
like colored glass.

How we despised his art, the blue
lightness of his eyes, the broken reach
of his arm, the ungainly swing
of his legs, the stone block of his head
grinding slowly on his shoulders.

We wondered how he got that way,
which war he’d run away from,
and why he kept his silence when
we asked him to his face to name
who’d done this to him.

But it was strange, uncanny even,
that when you laughed and pulled his ear,
when he swung that head around just so
and turned the lightness of those eyes
upon us without speaking,

I had the urge — you will remember —
to tell him all the things I’d done
that left me feeling shot through
with remorse. But it was late, so late,
and they hustled him away “someplace nice”
they said, and laughed.

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