Milwaukee is connected to Chicago and St. Paul, the name of the railroad
tells us so. The big man on the tracks, lying
in his stocking feet could be a stranger, then.
His socks, however, are worn at the balls of his feet
by brown leather, as are every manís.
I approach the big man from the direction of his feet; they are upturned, heels
rooted into the ground. His pants legs are ripped at the seams and his belt
is ripped from its notches.
The manís chest, no matter how large
would not hide his face, not at this distance, if his head was intact.
Here is candor, then. This man will never suspect where his shoes flew to.
His hair and brain tangle in one another,
one a dam, one a glue. The blood
cannot soak into the inadequate scalp and the bloodied hair, saturated as it is
will not be made equal to the wind. A decapitated head is a nest, a living
turbine curled up one last time, and turns
into nothing but patches on the railroad ties.
But I am the interpreter here. When I mention the blood, the picture
becomes far too calm. So I go back to the shoes, at his sides.
I mean to tell where I spent a minute
of my life, when it joined anxiously
with a mechanized suicide. A planned wreck. A path and a lost head.
There was none of my saliva in anything I tasted: instead, the shale dust
upset yet in the circumference of the body's site
the hot leather smell of thrown shoes,
and the outburst of a body that is done feeling down to the bones, this strict inanition.
What I taste is need for more people to take this man a way...this wreck on purpose.
I carry a heavy hardbound book
and it reminds me that this man and me, we need company.
Before that, we had just death and life, suicide and life, and at the center I rock
on my toes and heels, gaining and losing that sparse distance.
I go pale and flush, and staring
at this stranger, this is a difficult luxury.
I am tired of the direction I took to meet with a mangling such as this.
I am tired of holding the book. It is extremely compact, so much so
I know it first as pure weight, an anchor
but then the strain of holding it
brings me back to the emergency. The book is my only reminder
that I cannot take care of this man, this extraordinary accident, this mess.
Because, in the book Odysseus rests
for a moment with a man just killed.
Then, he moves on because he is in the middle of something. If we witness
Odysseus grieve, that means we are not him.
I once rode the knees of other big men...
my grandpa, my dad, my brothers.
I straddled the backs of them, too, until my feet touched the ground.
Now, I am not a kid, and men I do not pretend are horses.
Iíll say that before the end I wanted a horse
to be shot out from under me...
a spectacular sacrifice of horse, dying without a scream
same as the Indian rider, joined finally, living up to one brave death.
But I'll not touch this invitation, this man's body
once so perfect for a kid to ride.
Start at the man's feet. They seem two levers that released his bowels
and thinned his head to a mirage gone down the tracks, challenging me.
Now, with Odysseus on the Milwaukee Road
go back to the shoes.
The force that jolted through this man
and landed at his side, I live in the middle of that.