Michael Moriarty | How Close

Cyclops stoplights blink their only eyes.
The 2am sky smothered with electric orange haze.
Chris and I drive home past heavy buildings with their dark mouths closed.
A man. A man leaning into his walk. A man stumbles into his lean.
A man stumbles through the thick summer air hovering. We are driving and
a man steps off the corner and loses all volition–and collapses face down in the street–
right in front of us.

Are you okay.
Can you call me an ambulance.

When I hook my arms under his and lift—-
his frame is slack, skeletal, bones shifting through red mud.
I prop his limp body against a lamp post and his head
lolls like a balloon tied to a child’s wrist.
I ask him what happened he says,
I just can’t get where I’m going.

The 911 woman wants to know if he has any visible injuries.
Well, no, I guess but . . . I mean, he just collapsed in the middle of the fucking street so . . .

She asks if he’s a white guy, or black guy,
oh, I didn’t know there were only 2 options.
Maybe just look for the half dead guy on the side of the road—-
I don’t think skin color’s that much of a factor.
He’s all scattered glances and halfbreath sinking into his own shadow.
Hands probably scraped to a pulp of wet raspberries.
Ash flecked beard and faint rasp of a stare sinking back and I just
want them to send the damn ambulance so I say, “black guy”
and he’s like, “what the hell, man?”
And I’m stammering, “I know, I’m sorry, this lady’s asking . . .”

When the cops arrive they ask,
“Have you had anything to drink tonight?”
He goes,
“I just can’t get where I’m going.”

“I’m just going . . .
home”

and the cop says, “where’s home”
and I think, you’re lookin’ at it asshole.

And I just leave him there with the officers and
I don’t really know where all of this goes.
The probably drunk of high man—-kissing the yellow lines on the asphalt.

Our staggered waltz to the sidewalk. His breath
warm on my shoulder. The cop looking at him like a stray.
I don’t know what to make of this.
It could have been anyone but
it was me
and him.

I don’t know what to make of this but sometimes
the man presses his thumbs to the backs of my eyelids
or I see him falling like a bridge into the sea.

Just couldn’t get where he was going—-
which of course is such a human place to be—-
the night shifting its teeth and the city shifting its roads—-
what to think except
we all teeter that close to going down burning—
to a simple request:

can you help me?
can you lift me to my feet?

© 2013 Michael Moriarty

The Big Windows Review 5 (Fall 2013)

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