Oct/Nov 2009 Spotlight

White Noise

by Heather Styka

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


White Noise

Some mornings,
I walk two blocks
out of the way
to avoid the man
who stands on the corner
selling newspapers.
I pass him
when I buy my coffee
and tell myself
I have no money
to give.

I often wonder
if he recognizes faces
or coats. Coats, I hope,
so that he won't grow familiar
and form any grudges. For the first
two weeks, I looked at him
with apology in my smile,
but it seems more sincere
to cast a weary gaze
at my boots.

Once, he sat beside me
while I waited for a bus.
He shifted forward on the bench.
The canvas of his winter coat
compressed, air puffing slowly out
through polyester insulation.
He seemed the sputter of a candle
left burning, the crackle of needle
on a record left spinning—
though he did not ask for bus fare,
I heard his sustained breaths
over the din of traffic.


Previous Piece Next Piece