Mark DeFoe



I cannot tag you with a proper name.
When I sit across from you on the train

I can only guess at the crimes hidden
under your coat or the sorrow buried

in your pockets. If you let down your guard
would you show me how you have flayed yourself,

or expose your flesh taut with lust or slack
with failure? If you took off your hat could

I study your shortcomings swimming
in your skull like guilty electric eels

flashing your sins—Cruelty, indifference, greed?
Is that you hiding in that cloying cloud

of cheap perfume, too much cologne? Are ghosts
of murdered children clinging to your skirts?

That friend you left for dead in Baghdad--
Is that who you lug like a camo sack

of shame? I stare at your shoes. You stare out
through the black window. I stare at the map

over your head. We have no before or after.
This is my stop. This is where I get off.



Mark DeFoe’s latest book of poems is The Rock and the Pebble (Pringle Tree Press 2006). He is chair of the English Department at West Virginia Wesleyan College. DeFoe has recent work in Salmagundi, Poems and Plays, South Dakota Review, and South Carolina Review.


Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.


Read more by this author:
Mark Defoe: The Whitman Issue