It’s a peculiar phenomenon,
This confiding to me the problems of the troubled.
I cannot say what it is that entices loose lips and quivering nostrils
In my less-than qualified presence.

I say peculiar, mark you,
Because it is an amusing situation to find oneself in,
And more times than not–
Indeed, it would be safe to quote always–
I take this occasion to practice my allegories.

I like to lean in close,
I like to prolong eye contact
I like to hold my breath for five,
Maybe seven,
Extraneous and completely unnecessary counts
So that the glue which has been cast upon me by the troubled
Is secure and fast.

To the retired solider,
When he tells me the spoils and toils of war,
The horrors of battle and the gruesome dreams,
I say:
“There are two ways to remove a stone from a shoe:
To slip the shoe off and shake out the sinner
Or cut off the foot completely.”
Then I like to take a step back,
Or lean back if my position is cemented.
I tilt my head to the left and open my eyes wide.

To my next-door-neighbor’s daughter,
When she tells me of the rumors
And the finger-pointing, and the life-or-death drama,
I say:
“God may not have liked the pretzels,
But he sure as hell couldn’t bake them Himself.”
I step back, I lean back, I tilt and flare,
And the exhalations dry her tears.

To the man-boy in my Math class,
When he launches into stories of horrific homework mountains,
How to conquer the load and be the basketball manager,
I say:
“Never forget, as long as you live:
The slower you stroke the strings
The more the ukulele will purr.”
I step back, I lean back, I tilt and flare.

“Always take the boat when offered a kayak,”
I say to the bookshop owner.
“Only swim when you’re confident it’s a Tuesday,”
I say to the barista.
“Don’t feed a cat who doesn’t want to feed you back,”
I say to the bartender.

I step back, I lean back, I tilt and flare,
And the eye contact mingles with unwavering confidence.
The troubled mirror me and lean back too,
Closing the eyes and letting a few
Dribbles seep from the corners.
They whisper, “thank you”,
And before we depart they shake my hand
Until it nearly departs my body.

Although I don’t,
I would like to thank them for this occasion
To practice my allegories.

The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.


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