Zen of Tipping

My friend Lou
used to walk up to strangers
and tip them—no, really—
he'd cruise the South Side,
pick out the businessman on his way
to lunch, the slacker hanging
by the Beehive, the young girl
walking her dog, and he'd go up,
pull out a dollar and say,
Here's a tip for you.
I think you're doing a really
good job today
. Then Lou would
walk away as the tipee stood
in mystified silence. Sometimes
he would cut it short with,
Keep up the fine work.
People thought Lou was weird,
but he wasn't. He didn't have much,
worked as a waiter. I don't know
why he did it. But I know it wasn't
about the magnanimous gesture,
an easy way to feel important,
it wasn't interrupting the impenetrable
edge of the individual—you'd
have to ask Lou—maybe it was
about being awake, hand-to-hand
sweetness, a chain of kindnesses,
or fun—the tenderness
we forget in each other.

More by Jan Beatty

Report from the Skinhouse

I went looking for the body.

The apple, tree, the river.
Gliding voice, curve of arm,
pearly blue uterus.

Muscled calf, the neptune green
eye, blood with the same
taste as mine.

Why do I write my report this way?
An adopted child needs to find a face.

What does a real mother's body look like?
River, chalkline, bloody cave?

I am replica of nothing.

birthmother, conjurer, boneshaker, witch,
let me smell your skin just once,
I'll give you your bloody daughter.

Sitting Nude

The torso facing east, the head nearly west,
as if she couldn't take in the sight of her
own skin and its failings, its parts spilling
onto other parts. She thought:
Nothing for once.
Too tired for fantasy.
If a body can be seen as itself and loved,
it's a wonderful thing. If the thing-ness
of the body is all, we're doomed and
broke apart: I'm offering you my breasts,
inches below the fuselage of my heart,
for whatever a short life can become.

I'll Write the Girl

The thing I'll never write is the green leaf
with its rubbery-hard veins, I'll never
write the structure exposed, instead

I'll write the girl picking it up, green leaf,
her pudgy hand & her wanting it, that's it,
because she knows the sky is full

of stumbling ghosts, & she's back in the cold
room, back on the dark floor, & along
so much sky, what does one person do?

She says, bring it to me & devours,
hungry girl, breaks it open, tastes
the day's first plasma of leaf, first blood

of green on her city street, she takes it
to her like morning's first kill, &
owns it, stem to point,

& knows her life will always
be this biting open one thing
to leave another, that the only

way she'll get anything is
with this tiny hammer
in her animal brain

saying: mine,
& again,
& now.