Misery by Inches

I nod to the comrade
In his ghastly green jacket,
That vile New Yorker nod,
He gets this respect
With tight fish-eyes,
But he would not nod back,
Not to a lesser man.

Perhaps because finished souls
Bite into an ending fraternity
That need not be broadcast
In subways and pulpits.

While adversity makes a man his most humble.
Nice jackets hide superior demons.
But dogs will eat dogs
If conditions are prime.
After all,
We compete for the attention
Of an original oblivion.

We are real nothings in this lottery,
We feed off that nourishing melancholy,
No need to wear it on dirty sleeves.
Say, if we measured the lengths
Of our miseries with tape,
I would be bested by him,
Only by useful inches,
But every inch counts.

In a tight room of private unspoken evil,
Inches discrete us from death,
An inch on a open wrist.
An inch from a perfect bed-sheet noose,
An inch from losing it.

I can smell his honing decay
In the bleeding mob of 69 Street.
For broken begets broken.
Something powerful in the offing.
Our oily foreheads,
Though carved with inches of time and vocation,
Will tell you little nothings.

The man peels off his ghastly green jacket,
The tunnels echo and quake,
Lights come flashing,
And he steps onto shivering tracks,
So ends a single story.
And I am better,
By a ghastly green jacket and a poem.


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