Today I saw a man who looked away when
he asked the clerk where he might find pepper-
corn sauce in a packet. He held a muscled bit
of stringy steak. Both man and meat had the gray
look of shades swept from a cave. Sent to aisle three,
the man wandered, head down, on his fool’s errand.
He would not ask again, so stuffed his beef behind pots
of yogurt. What if I took him to the butter and cream,
pressed a scallion snug into his palm? Was it a lie
to tell him to lash the brandy into the pan, to sear
the corns of pepper? I’ve never made peppercorn sauce
but I can imagine. The fillet I bought for him had fat
streaked with lean. I didn’t ask which prison he’d been in,
or how long. The man had the folded-over look of one so worn
that no one would bother him, even if he held life’s golden secret.
Want more. Want more! Want clouds. Eat light and rain.
Believe a dead light wakes to find you. Vast winds
might still wait to range inside of you. I did not say.
Which one of us hears that? Though I hope the hand
I gave (he wiped his first against his jeans) implied it.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.