Lookin'-Back Paul
by Rachel Richardson

We have to begin
by naming, fusing the given and the gesture:
place the men in front of the liquor store,
the kids on bikes in the lot.
If there were twelve of them,
apostles, we would count them off;
but all we have are the twos
and threes, men smoking
in the low burnt light,
women coming home
to fill an empty house.
So no one sees Paul
as a martyr, they only catalogue
him in the family of names.
He is the crazy one
the shaken head; Paul is the man
who will lead you through the widow's house
for your dollar donation,
showing you where the soldier-ghost roams,
he will turn your head
to each crack and painting,
cries of Confederate shadow;
—and here is the step,
here the board that creaks in the night.

Paul will show you these miracles,
wild eyes seizing on each rested thing—
and you will carry your image of him
in his place on the sidewalks
following the lines of each street
through the dense web of neighborhood,
always circling back.

Rachel Richardson is a poet living in Cambridge, MA. She has work forthcoming in the spring 2003 issue of Witness.