Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care
facilities. He has a wife, Vickie and a daughter, Sage. His work appeared in hundreds
of publications, including Prime Mincer, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review,
Two Thirds North and The Red Cedar Review. He has poems forthcoming in Bluestem,
Poetry Salzburg Review and The William and Mary Review.

Abstract Child

We mourn for the abstract child
as if she is possibly our own,
wanting to go to her

where she lives weightlessly
in a monastery of trees

calming her fever and uncertainty.

Clouds furrow the brow of her sky,
so we lie to her
knowing one tear will break us all
beyond repair.

Take our hands
take our hands now, we cry,
just before she pulls us into a blue forest
of miracles and slightest impossibility.

We hold her in our withered limbs,
trying to clarify what is indistinguishable

but if we truly could do that
none of us would have ever heard
of this strangled other world.

Sailing to Bermuda

Their luncheon; ceremonial at best.
Mother and daughter chat over French onion soup
and club sandwiches, trying to find the mysterious
ground that once seemed so common. Conversation
ranges only to topics that maintain a wary distance:
Politics, economics and plans for future travel.
Ensuing laughter is a bit too sharp, a little too loud.

At a nearby table, an old woman gags and spits up
her food. Everyone is listening, watching in a way
where heads don't move, playing let's pretend
we're not fascinated by this inevitable suffering.

It's an ideal moment for empathy; a whisper or sigh,
a silent nod of the head. Instead, an ill-tamed silence.
This is what we have forgotten about each other.
Why they must quickly move apart if their legs brush
beneath the table, why they can't sip from the same
glass. Fully shunning the unfolded scene, Mom
suggests sailing to Bermuda and the laughter is a
trifle louder, elusively comfortable in this cultured-state;
to know what is feared so much more intimately than
that which we hope to love.

Diary of a Sensitive Youth

In Cody
I remember the woman with no teeth who was crying.
I wanted to give her a couple of cigarettes
or maybe even the whole pack
but then I wouldn't have any, so I kept them,
and I moved on.

In Spokane
I was living at the park with the other homeless people.
Me and my friend were showing off
to the college girls that passed by
but I got tired of that
so I climbed a cliff about thirty feet high
and when I stood on top I could see the whole city
and when I looked down I saw a kid about my age
wearing black Converse shoes
his body covered by a ripped orange tarp.
His hands were on his stomach, cradling his severed head
and I said, well, at least you can't feel anything—
but I wasn't sure who I was talking to.
I couldn't speak for a couple of days after that
and one night, by the fire,
I noticed that I was wearing black Converse shoes,
wrapped in an orange poncho
and I knew that I would never talk again
if I stayed there, so I got up,
and I moved on.

Outside Spokane
I gave a woman my last five dollars because she looked like
the woman in Cody who I wanted to give cigarettes to.
But even after she had the money,
people still turned their heads from her in shame
and I thought, what difference does this really make?
Five dollars might last half-a-day
and then she'll still be the same anyway.
I was totally broke now, and I wished
I hadn't given away all my money, so I made a note,
and I moved on.

In Denver
I was sleeping at a friend's place
when I heard gunfire and jumped up and remembered
oh yeah, this is Denver, and went back to sleep
not too bothered by the drive-by-shooting.
In the morning
I heard that a little boy had been shot in the crossfire.
I was sad in a way
and wanted to do something to help.
Three weeks later, I was still there,
unable to think of any way to help, but I heard
he had gotten better anyhow and I felt better,
so I lit-up a found, half-cigarette, inhaled,
and began moving on.

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