I’m not religious, but

By Frederick Greenhalgh

Download Poem Read Aloud by Author (MP3)

I’m not religious, but
every morning, as I get off work
I buy Dixie’s first black coffee
and walk home with a disposable cup.

The city snores, coughs, and murmurs.
Darkness clings to concrete eaves.
I trip over a man, thinking he’s a garbage bag.

I’m not religious, but
5AM is an odd hour. You feel safe-the criminals are sleeping.
I cut down streets where roses grow
around barbed wire.

Stopping by a church at the meeting
of two roads,
Piety and Desire,
I light a damp cigarette.
There’s caution tape around the Virgin
and grass crawling from cracks in the asphalt.

I’m not religious, but
there are twelve more dead today.
I can read the front page through a window gouged with the word ‘CUNT.’
I save my fifty-cents for the laundromat.

One time, while my socks were drying,
a man staggered in with a gun.
I lowered my book to see the clerk
reverently emptying the register
as if waiting his whole life for this moment.

Though I’m not religious,
I still wonder, when I see two pigeons fight
for an empty potato chip bag, or drink
from a film of diesel fuel-

But that’s no way to go to bed; easier to crush
the Styrofoam cup as you climb each stair to the seventh
story, lighting your last cigarette on a balcony,
wishing you could see the sunrise.