the old man and the vodka

warm autumn day
first avenue
corner of 11th street
old man in big coat lying on his back
his body on the sidewalk
his head hanging down the curb touching the road
i kneel next to him
leaning towards his face
his open eyes are looking at me
i say to him “are we having fun there?”
“good you’re here” he answers
i start grabbing hold of his arms
thinking he’s going to ask me to help him up
instead he starts pulling out some wrinkled
dollar bills out of the pocket of his dirty coat
giving me the money
telling me with his saliva-dripping mouth
“go get me something from the store”
what do you need?
vodka he answers
i tell him i don’t think that’s the best thing
for him right now
he replies “you don’t know the secrets that i know
now go and get me that vodka”
looked into his deep eyes
glazing at me from his slanted head
that rests on the curb between the wheels
of two parked cars
had no doubts that he was absolutely right
i don’t know the secrets that he knows
© 2001. All Rights Reserved.
Zemach Zohar Wilson, New York, November 2001

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