Paulo César León Palacios CC
I learned to spill a drop on the earth
before the first sip, no matter how urgent
the thirst that drove him to panhandle, close
enough to the liquor store that everyone
knew. But still they paid the quarter, the
buck into his trembling hand. Better him than
me, they thought. Or maybe
it was the way the corners of his eyes turned
up, a man down on his luck, not like a man
forsaken and drowned. Or if we sat
in a basement beside rumbling washing
machines, the drop was spilled on his jeans.
Any place warm,
anywhere out of wind.
We trudged, he forging ahead and me following
in his wide booted steps, the red kerchief
wound around his head the only hat
he ever owned, chains rattling
against his thighs as he strode towards
the cruel fate of wine.
He taught me to say “for the brothers”
those who had gone down. Who had
been hit by a bus or died of hyperthermia or
hitched their way to being beaten by the
side of the road, locked up in prison,
huddled under the bridge.
He said it was communion. He said he never took a drink
without thanking God for one more day.
Wendy Brown-Báez is the creator of Writing Circles for Healing. She is the author of the writers’ guide Heart on the Page: A Portable Writing Workshop, a novel and a poetry collection. Her poetry and prose appear widely in literary journals and anthologies, including Mizna, Wising Up Press, Poets & Writers, Talking Writing, Water~Stone Review, Peregrine, Mom Egg Review, Duende, and Tiferet. Wendy leads creative writing and memoir in community spaces such as healing centers, prisons, libraries, and churches, as a member of Mn Prison Writing Workshop, Writing to Wholeness Collective, and The Loft Literary Center.
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