Hey, you lookin’? The crack-head on Liberty and Taylor
Crystal J. Hoffman

His feet hit pavement with the same force
and rhythm as the short arthritic Italian woman
paused for breath outside Ace Hardware.

Blood-shame, a train-wreck, wearing women’s
size five jeans he stole from his sister in ’92
he reminds me of the beauty of bruises
after wrestling with strung-out
boys in a not-really-sexual way

That smell you always miss, like bleeding,
become so tightly obsessed that choking and forgiving
are the same—the shade of rusted violets, the bits
of red on a mangled dove feather, the comfort
in This is all I have to work with now.

Imagine him ripping teeth out
of the black in my left thigh—
almost told him Always,
flushed, loved easy,
never knowing what kills or saves me,
only how it compares to the busted ribs,
a bloody mouth, face down in a sidewalk,
metallic reflections left in my eyes.
There was no moment of clarity—just burnt white dust in midday sun,
when everything hurts the same in heavy breaths.
It rained hard the next day, but
with blood still on the streets
picking gravel out from my palms

I’m almost inured—faking hours away
from a well-read moon speaking—
try this and look at legs and open doors.

Simply turning my jean pockets inside out
as I pass him—no God in a vacuum
flushed, loved easy—
what saves to kill me.

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