I saw you yesterday on the stairs of the mall
a local by accent
an immigrant by color
caught between worlds, you were sitting there with a friend
drinking beer from a bottle.
I watched you as the old man shuffled by.
‘You buy a postcard? Pretty postcard?’
‘Get lost,’ you said, and, ‘get a job.’
‘This is my job,’ he told you, told you off. ‘I pay my taxes. You? You came here, a guest in this country, you better behave.’
‘I am of this country,’ you replied. ‘I pay my taxes, too.’
And on and on, the pair of you went, dancing the society limbo
each of you looking
how low you could go
each of you hoping
to find someone lower than yourself
someone to look down on.
You left, and left your empty bottles
the kind you can return to the store for a refund
48 cents on the stairs of the mall
and an empty cardboard box.
for someone to look up to.
He came, a few minutes later
worn-out clothes and unkempt hair
a bag in his hands
he stooped, and collected your 48 cents,
and then stooped once more
to pick up your empty cardboard box, fold it up neatly, and put it in the nearest trash can.
I smiled at him,
to tell him I had seen him
and he smiled back,
to tell me that he knew,
and we both refused to dance.