Poem & drawing by Philip Nikolayev

pencil sketch by PN

A homeless man making his bed in Harvard Square. Life sketch in pencil by Philip Nikolayev.


I know two homeless men, they both believe
that evil forces have messed with their lives.
Always, every time something good seemed about to happen,
something really bad happened,
and so it keeps going on
for ever and ever more—
like a bad spell, a curse.
Evil forces will do anything,
repeatedly steal your eyeglasses to keep you from reading,
put you in trouble with the law,
cut the strings of your guitar, plagiarize your songs,
gun down your mother in a Chicago supermarket
during a late night shift (this a long time ago),
make you sleep God knows where, God knows how, alone.
Whenever there’s the littlest chance of a romance,
some nasty shit happens and screws it all to bits.
One believes in an afterlife and in numerology,
the other is an atheist but sings in a church.
If you carry a guitar the cops don’t harass you as much.
If you panhandle and get donations from college students,
cops will suspect you’re pushing dime bags.
They both hate the distant, indifferent rich
and both respect me just because I’m a poet.
How locked are we all into our respective fates.
The rich can’t help being rich, the poor poor,
the invisible hand piles invisible cash,
wants its streets clean of trash.

Born in Moscow and raised in Russia and Moldova, poet Philip Nikolayev is the son of a linguist. He grew up speaking both English and Russian and immigrated to the United States in 1990. Nikolayev earned a BA and an MA at Harvard University and a PhD at Boston University. His poetry collections include Dusk Raga (1998), Monkey Time(2003), which won a Verse prize, and Letters from Aldenderry (2006). [poetryfoundation]


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This entry was posted on December 27, 2015 by in poetry, Uncategorized.


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