DEMENTED DISCUSSES DISTINGUISHED
I motion the black beggar at the intersection into my car.
We drive along and interrupt each other.
He doesn’t know he’s going to Burbank but he is.
We enjoy speaking at the same time. I tell him
There is a man coming from Africa (on the plane even as I explain)
Who is an expert in a good thing, all of it,
As many are who are from Cincinnati, or Seattle (been there!)
Or Baltimore or Rochester and so forth, 90 cities (whoa! been to all of them!)
Yes, they are smart (blazing
Intellects he says) and blazing through the clouds on 91 planes
With a normal fun African name and 90 normal boring American names.
He shouts me down and follows up on my discussion:
It is super weird how they are like each other,
As if all human beings were, the evil being to separate some
Humans to take advantage of some, and as I love each one,
Even the ones from Philadelphia and Kenya,
Super weird how they ditto each other, but I like it
(Everybody is the same! I shouted) and bless and bless again, he continued.
This is the sort of extended comment I was hoping for
So I turn around, go back to his choice intersection, give him money,
And say thank you (he says, no, thank you, I say
No, thank you, he says, no, thank you, I say, no, thank you.)
ARTHUR VOGELSANG’s books of poetry are A Planet (Holt, 1983), Twentieth Century Women(University of Georgia Press, 1988), which was selected by John Ashbery for the Contemporary Poetry Series, Cities and Towns (University of Massachusetts Press, 1996), which received the Juniper Prize, Left Wing of a Bird (Sarabande, 2003), and Expedition: New & Selected Poems(Ashland Poetry Press, 2011), with numerous appearances in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry (Scribner), The Pushcart Prize, The New Breadloaf Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and American Hybrid (W.W. Norton & Co.). He was an editor/publisher of The American Poetry Review from 1973-2006. He has poems in recent or forthcoming issues of Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, The North American Review, The New Yorker, Poetry, Poetry Daily, and The Yale Review.
Read more by Arthur Vogelsang:
Poem in Plume
Poem at The Poetry Foundation
Poem in The New Yorker