He Exists

He exists. On the red & blue mats under the lights

of a city he leaps a fluorescent arc, teeth grinding

in hurt pride even when he knows we love him.

My little friend, the daughter of his swindling employer swears

he is no more than nineteen. I try not to think of it at times of cruelty,

when his eyes and his hands and his financial reality go abusive.

Four thousand a month in Shenzhen amounts to

nothing, means survival within seams, necessitates

tact and thick skin. At nineteen his years

cling to him like the baby-fat on his cheeks, squat,

possessive, undiminished by sun or hunger or poverty.

Survival instincts. Has he any? When I see him he exists—

humbly, translucently, surreptitiously, driven

by a condensation of time and space and dignity. He shrugs,

shoulders lean and heavy and waist bleached by a year of

air-conditioning. Sunday siestas I dream about him. In his apartment

that he shares with four others like him we curl into an orb

of efficiency, our existences shattered into many pieces

for convenient storage. Our chests rise and fall in sync until

he stops breathing. Could he exist? He is more orthodox

than my father but he swears in his spare time also.

He leaps an arc as beautiful as any narrative.

He props his legs against my leg, when I fall

they bounce me back up without mercy. On the red

& blue mats of the city choking with laughter

& disgrace he refuses to look at me.

When I touch him he starts shrinking.

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