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Saturday, November 17, 2007


by David Chorlton

In a quiet moment among the vehicles
parked outside the Safeway store
a man approaches with his whispered plea
for change. Just released from Marana he says and they dropped me at Thirty-fifth and Van Buren. It’s a hundred degree day.
Got family in Colorado. He’s been in prison
for years, and it hardly matters to him
what time the bus to Denver leaves. He can wait,
but not walk in this heat. They left me without money or water, can you spare . . . ?
We stand between those SUVs
with too much power for the city, the ones
that shine and brag about their owners
while waiting for them to finish
shopping. Buying a new car means choices
between making an impression with size
or investing in modesty, paying more to save
on gas later or paying more not to care.
I could call my brother to wire me something
says the man, whose incarceration began before
anyone spoke much about fuel efficiency.
He swallows just to feel the moisture in his throat.
For a dollar and a quarter you can take the bus to the station I tell him and present the two crumpled bills
I have left. He takes them and thanks me
before I remind him that seventy-five cents
won’t buy a bottle of water anymore.
He’s free now, which means choices.

David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, writes and paints and keeps track of local wildlife. His newest book, The Porous Desert, was published this summer by FutureCycle Press, and testifies to his having internalised the desert during the past twenty-nine years. Some of his art work can be seen at