Outside the Met a man walks up sun
tweaking the brim sticker on his Starter cap
and he says pardon me Old School, he
says you know is this a wishing well?
Yeah Son I say sideways over my shrug.
____Throw your bread on the water.
I tighten my chest wheezy as Rockaway beach
sand with a pull of faux smoke from my e-cig
to cozy the truculence I hotbox alone
and I am at the museum because it is not a bar.
Because he appears not to have changed
them in days I eye the heel-chewed hems
of his pants and think probably he will
ask me for fifty cents any minute now wait
for it. A smoke or something. Central Park displays
the frisking transparency of autumn. Tracing
paper sky, leaves like eraser crumbs gum
the pavement. As if deciphering celestial
script I squint and purse off toward the roof
line of the museum aloof as he fists two
pennies from his pockets mumbling and then
aloud my man he says hey my man I’m going
to make a wish for you too.
____I am laughing now so what you want
me to sign a waiver? He laughs along ain’t
say all that he says but you do have to
hold my hand.____And close your eyes.
I make a starless night of my face before
he asks are you ready. Yeah dawg I’m ready.
Sure? Sure let’s do this his rough hand
in mine inflates like a blood pressure cuff and I
squeeze back as if we are about to step together
from the sill of all resentment and timeless
toward the dreamsource of un-needing the two
of us hurtle sharing the cosmic breast
of plenitude when I hear the coins blink against
the surface and I cough up daylight like I’ve just
been dragged ashore. See now
you’ll never walk alone he jokes and is about
to hand me back to the day he found me in
like I was a rubber duck and he says you got to let
go but I feel bottomless and I know he means
well though I don’t believe
____and I feel myself shaking
my head no when he means let go his hand.
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“Wishing Well” from DIGEST, © 2014 by Gregory Pardlo. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.
Gregory Pardlo is recipient of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Pardlo is author of Digest (2014) and Totem, winner of the 2007 American Poetry Review / Honickman Prize. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, Tin House, and two editions of Best American Poetry, as well as anthologies including Angles of Ascent and the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. Pardlo is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and teaches undergraduate writing at Columbia University. He serves as an Associate Editor of Callaloo, and is a facilitator of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop.
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