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Thursday, December 17, 2009


by James K. Zimmerman

and I heard
          the three of you shouting
          outside the window of my
          fifth-floor walk-up
                    on a sweaty summer night

and I ran
          to the window to see
          you staggering out
          from the shit-hole bar
                    across the street

and I saw
          the two of them kicking you
          in the back, in the head
          holding you by the arm
          so you couldn’t get away

and I knew
          you were too drunk to know
          if this was real or the
          final chapter in the DTs
          that were your closest friends
                    for all those years

and I saw
          them pull out their blades
          and stab you over and over
          in the arms and legs and
                    back and head

and I thought
          I should do something
          shout out, call the police
                    do something

and I stayed
          at the window watching
          in the after-midnight stench
          and screech and scream
          of the dreamless night

and I saw
          you stumble to the corner
          where a miraculous yellow cab
          swept you up to take you
          to the hospital
                    or the morgue

and I watched
          the two of them saunter
          and slide down the street
          in adrenaline-pumped swagger

and I raged
          as they wiped off their blades
          and closed them up and
          put them back in their pockets

and I smelled
          the fear, mine and yours
          and the blood and the
          sweat and the stench
          of the dumpster where they
          threw the bloody handkerchiefs

and I heard
          the siren of the cop car
          at the end of the block
          coming down the street

and I saw
          the two of them drag on a
          casual cigarette or a joint
          in the rotating red glow of
          the oncoming cop car lights

and I saw
          the cops drive up the street
          as the two of them walked on by

and I shouted
          in my mind: “that’s them
          they’re the ones
                    stop them
                              make them pay”

and I knew
          in the dreamless after-midnight
                    stench and scream

I knew
          the cops would not stop

James K. Zimmerman is the winner of the 2009 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest and the 2009 Daniel Varoujan Award. His work appears or is upcoming in SLAB, Penumbra, Off Channel, Winning Writers, ICON, SNReview, and the Poetry Annual from Wild Leaf Press.