Sprawled on a courtroom bench,
Willie belches and stinks in the stale dregs
of his socks,
muttering something about fucking
Allah, a bitch who threw him out of paradise,
a mother in flames,
a dog in a swamp.

Dolores, the intrepid gambler
of bodega back rooms,
with deranged hair of uncertain
color and quality
legs orange and pink Popsicles,
moves to another bench
and laughs -- well something
like a laugh that drowns
at conception
as an officer bellows:
"Who's talking will be

But Willie talks.
The man's a one man mine field,
exploding into rhapsodic
phalanxes of visions
that assault one another,
suffer profound wounds
and return to battle,
as mutants.

Willie cannot actually be removed
and he cannot be put together;
that much is clear.

The blue ones with the cuffs and chains
can only put Willie inside something
ostensibly outside of himself.
But they cannot keep him.

So you see Willie in the subway car
again stretched across a bench, invading
the car.

Dolores and her aunt
run to another car at the next stop.
While others smell the darkness
of chaos
the moment the door opens
and reconsider their advance
as though the stench were a gun
aimed straight at them.

You see Willie
over and over again,
wherever you go he grows
shadows that stretch from street to street,
house to house.

His shadows take over the sidewalks
and follow you to places
you thought were safe
inside yourself.

Swathed inside your tender box
with its hospital corners,
you close your eyes
and see a thousand formless things,
a thousand parts of yourself
you cannot put together.

Carol Novack lives in New York City. She’s worked as a journalist, researcher,
college teacher of English, and criminal defense/constitutional lawyer;
she recently acquired a Master’s Degree in Social Work. A book of her poems
was published in Australia, where she received a creative writer’s grant.
Carol’s poetry and prose have appeared in various journals and anthologies.
Recent writings are forthcoming in “Wild Strawberries,”
“Smokelong Quarterly,” and “Edifice Wrecked.”

© 2004 Underground Voices