I pry open the files, still packed
        with liquor & strange brine.

Midnight seeps from the cracks
        slow pulp of arithmetic. Four or five

or six at a time, the white men draw
        along the Gordonsville Road, on foot

or on horseback, clustered close—
        each man counting up his hours, the knife

of each man’s tongue at the hinge
        of his own mouth. For ninety-three years

& every time I slip away to read
        those white men line the roadway

secreting themselves in the night air
        feeding & breathing in their private

column. Why belly up to their pay stubs
        scraping my teeth on the chipped flat

of each page? This dim drink only blights me
        but I do it.

Copyright © 2020 by Kiki Petrosino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s possible you can see someone from
A distance, after all these years, and stop in your
Tracks or do a double take and wonder if maybe
It’s just someone who looks like someone
You used to know or if it’s the real person and
Then you walk on by like in the song “Walk
On By” and then you turn turn again but the person’s
Gone and all you can do is haul yourself
Up to the roof and jump off or shoot yourself
In the foot so that you can’t walk can’t move
And time hangs heavy as you sit in your room
And wonder if that person was him or you
Or someone’s twin who arrived from another
Planet to savor the lilac scent that radiates
From your skin

And the heat comes up from the pipes like Les
Trois Gymnopédies by Erik Satie and I turn the key
Without biting my tongue and the heart comes
Back on until it bleeds and I take back with one
Hand what I gave with the other and someone
Comes in off the street no longer invisible
And the kissing booth closes for the night—too
Bad for you—and I display my dishrag abs to
The wind one last time, feel my skin on fire
As I descend

from Alien Abduction (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015). Copyright © 2015 Lewis Warsh. Used with the permission of the publisher.