In darkness the scent of french fries
Follows me along the frontage road.
Plastic bags cling to a cyclone fence.
Cars speed by, drivers indifferent
To my brothers in the shadows patrolling
Their few feet of privacy.
No eye contact until I step into the cheap cologne mist
Outside a 24 Hour Fitness
Where people watch themselves
In large glass windows
Lit by overhanging pale vapor lights.
I pass unnoticed, reaching
An alleyway behind a bus station
With the fallen ashes from men
Lining the brick wall.
I shall not want
Yells some unseen
Part of the building.
At the corner I curse a digital bank clock–
Four hours until daylight.
With no place to sleep.
Need a three-hour coffee,
So I put 76 cents on a sticky table.
The waitress with blackened eyes
Towers over me
As she pours muddy liquid
Into a cup with a chipped rim.
She looks fuzzy and
Her hate keeps pushing my head down.
She sweeps away the coins
In disgust I imagine.
Later, someone grabs my arm
And says I have to leave
The empty cup.
I strain to raise my head,
Unable to speak,
A child again waiting
To be lifted up.
Outside amid the smell of urine,
I stumble, scraping my shoulder against
A rough surface.
A door opens.
The dull light inside fades slowly,
Leaving only the smell of bleach.
It takes a moment
For the door to close
And the fumes to burn my nostrils–
The spare change of despair
In the slow crawl of night
(Somewhere on Pico, 1977)