The Man of Dirt

I’m hiding from a man of dirt a smoky smelly man of dirt, his fire & his black hat & his back pack & everything he’s got is in the dirt or on his back, & only half his teeth (for his grimace) looking mutely in my direction as I walk by. I’m hiding from that man that skinny old man in black under the concrete overpass with his smelly rotting leather & his eyes watching his fire burning empty railroad cars waiting under the massive overpass under cars passing over fast. I’m hiding from that man of dirt laying in the grass to watch him moving slowly that man in his dirty black baggy pants. He watched me silently as I walked here I had to walk right by him to get here, I had to walk through empty streets made ready for empty houses. And somewhere off I heard the barking of a dog & the jingle of an ice-cream truck, & I imagined an assy lady swinging out of the cab for children’s money. The wind is blowing in my hair; the wind is blowing in the grass. The man of dirt won’t sleep tonight in grass, but under the overpass the man of dirt will die tonight lulled to sleep by the passing cars and will resurrect by dawn in the dirt against the concrete pillar of the freeway. Black birds squalked & rose flapping away from me & the grass into the wind in front of me as I left, there, the man of dirt. My nose wouldn’t stop running. I drank cool clean water until I couldn’t feel it going down my throat.

May 1971