TWO MEN SITTING OUTSIDE THE LABOR FIRST
(Appeared in The Apple Tree, Issue 1)
I’m running into the Coney Island to pick up
my breakfast takeout and I see these two middleaged guys
sitting on the curb in front of the Labor First next door.
It’s early, around 8:30, and the place isn’t
even open yet but they’re just sitting there waiting
to see if they’ll have work today or not.
The guy on the left is wearing Oakley sunglasses
and a Big Johnson teeshirt and his arms are folded
over his protruding gut.
He spits every few minutes like he can’t quite
manage to take in the world, rebelling any way he can.
His friend is smaller and is wearing a plain white veeneck
his skin brown and leathery he’s got black and gray stubble on his
lips and chin and he has deep dark eyes that
are tortured and soulful.
He’s talking but I can’t make out what he’s saying
and he takes a drag of his cigarette every few words—the burning cherry end
snaking down the white stem with every suck and pull.
They’re looking out onto Beck Road the morning traffic thick with those
headed to work and there’s a certain jealousy
silently nestled in them, in the way they shift and move
and talk and groan as if it should be them driving an air-conditioned
four-door to work rather than sitting in the already sweltering heat.
Then they see me and we make eye contact as I walk toward the diner
and I smile to be polite but they don’t respond they’re just sitting and
won’t stop looking at me. At what I am.