Mermaid 4

by Tobi Cogswell

That sweatshirt could stand by itself,
as could the pants under the shorts under
the pants. It is forecast to be hot,
even by the water, even under the pier.
If he could only beg enough to put
his beard in order, but he does not beg.
He could stand under the shower
at Avenue D for everything else
but the beard, it is like the sunglasses
he wears so you can’t see the blue of eyes
still clear, though he wants you to think
he is crazy in his soul. Right now his crazy
soul is telling him to cool off like everyone
else, and that’s not crazy, that’s smart,
so if you see him, slip him a five or ten –
he won’t buy booze, he’ll buy the barber college,
get his scraggly more manageable. Maybe you’ll
even see him smile next time out of the gray
of his silence, his reflection turned toward you
in the window as you pass, pretending he’s
not there but knowing deep down that he is.

Previously Published in Chaffin Journal

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