Confessional Poem


I worked at the SLC State Liquor Store,

Sugarhouse location.

We opened at nine and the line was around the block.

They came to us like sleepless lovers.

They filled up my shift

with black straw, with trying to talk

they were stuffed into the hours

of the day, like black straw—

they were real people but that’s how I thought

of them. Or as the dreams the hours

could not have, wearing newspapers in their coat

for warmth, while the cold air

carved their features,

as if from wax.

I used to say they could not dream—

so the night dreamed them.

They were people that deserved better

             but I was young

and I was cruel.

They used exact change—

held so tightly it was hot to the touch.

Something in that exchange more intimate

than a kiss.

Like panicking together.

A coal passed back and forth.

A blood cell split between friends.

Their dollars bills had the consistency of cream,

would turn your hands black—

they’d tell you to wear gloves.

But no one ever did.

How do you bear it, the space

you create around yourself?

The rooms behind rooms, the words that wait

behind each of these words,

like the True Princess of the realm

hidden in the street,

the blood diamond in the mud,

sparkling in the water

as the miners murder each other out of poverty

and frustration.

There’s something behind each word—

that it disguises and replaces

scratches and effaces

a thing so exquisitely empty that you could even call it

             a soul.

Or a place to put your head at night,

when it’s cold.

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