Winter 2000 • Vol. XXII No. 1 Poetry |

Cruelty

Because we were all sweaty, And irritable, and in a sort of jerky hurry Like junkies always are, my friend, and the dope dealer And his girlfriend the dying woman, and me Who always came along, I'm sure it was summer, And also because I remember the smell of the nose-opening ether They used to cut heroin with Mixing with the bitter, smelly, Grape-Ade effusions Off the purple flowers of a jacaranda tree Whose top brushed the window Of the dealer's third-floor apartment, And the tingle of mold that rises from a carpet When spring is over.         The dying woman Was a short black stub dressed like a clerk Or a secretary on her lunch break, Someone who works every day without complaint, and because I didn't know her very well I could say that maybe She also lived in a run-down dump like this, With a lumpy sofa she slept on and a TV set And a table with one wooden chair for eating, but I imagine She kept her place clean, dusted and swept Because that's how she looked

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