My favorite thing to do in this city
is graffiti self-portraits of my face
in pain on passing train cars,
mod podge photos of my art
on ceramic coasters & sell them
for 15 bucks a pop
at the Saturday morning farmer’s market.
You have to admit:
I’ve had worse get-rich-quick schemes.
Poor has a short porch & a long backyard.
That’s literally everything I know
about American capitalism. You & I,
we have different strategies for entertaining.
I ride visitors on the pegs of my bike
past every spot I once stopped
to stretch & study the construction
of my limbs, to kick my own ass & listen
for the patella’s satisfying snap.
You drive them to breakfast,
to lunch, to the statehouse
& the ghost of the Confederate flag.
We’ve made some progress here, we hear.
At the very least, paths were crossed.
The real hero, you & I agree, is the woman
who climbed the pole
who unscrewed the hooks
who gripped the fabric in her fists
& brought it down
well before the votes passed. We admired her
from the market, where we blew pennies on bread,
crossed the street between the Black Panthers
& the Klu Klux Klan. We were too tired
for the rallies, or my knees were achy
or we just wanted a beer, maybe,
or maybe it was the heat. But it’s gone,
It’s gone & I can at least say
the loner I live her, the less I’m convinced
my body will melt its way back together.
The longer I live here, the more I find
myself clawing at my own skin.
Here’s a self-portrait: you & me on a big porch
I mean, a big fucking porch. Don’t we love
the porches here? What a guilty, privileged
fantasy: a big blanket, a soft wood.
Me with my hands on my hinges,
an ugly dollar in my pocket.
You crisping in the sun.
My head in your lap, I might dream
of doing something profitable & good.
I might dream, undistracted, of finding myself
whole, woke by the scream of protest
beating its constraints
trapped but growing in my chest.
Justin Brouckaert's work has appeared in The Rumpus, Passages North, DIAGRAM and Bat City Review, among many other publications. He lives and writes in the greater NYC area.