2022 Poetry Collection

The Security Guard

I’ve seen him
every monday, wednesday, friday this november
sitting on a flimsy collapsible camp chair
the kind families haul to the beach in july
amid the grey debris of what has not yet
been built, guarding what will be the foyer
of an apartment building but is for now a concrete
emptiness cluttered with ladders and boards and bolts
and drill bits carelessly laid down at 5pm by rough
impatient hands. He wears a blue uniform,
a hazard vest, a turban. And I wonder
what he has been hired to guard,
this frail man in his camp chair staring
all night into a half-built vacuity. In may,
they draped the building with a canvas sign boasting
MOVE IN JULY! and I would walk by, one hand
swinging a picnic basket and the other immured
in the hand of a sweet man whose heart I waited
to break until september. They took it down,
the sign that is, defeatedly, in august,
the building being nowhere near ready
for people to bring to it their shoes and hopes
and heirlooms. The security guard sees me
looking through the glass at his grey
cage under fluorescent lights cruelly
bright, and I give to him the familiar smile
that I give him every time I see him. And he gives me his in turn,
polite, paternal, a smile that tells me he has a daughter
my age. He must recognize me by now, and I wonder
if he looks forward to me, if perhaps as he sits
in that flimsy chair contemplating —what? the cracks
in the concrete or the forgotten hammer in the corner, waiting—
for whom? the robbers, who never come, who would find nothing
to steal, or for the teenagers, who never come, who would just want a dry
place to huddle and sip bootlegged absolut, he wonders if he’ll see me
tonight, the college girl hurrying in the dark back to the mold and mice
of my little basement home, with one shoulder aching
beneath the weight of my book bag, forming a small slump

in my young spine, with a paper grocery bag clutched

to my chest containing just oranges and bread, with wet, winter-
scarlet face because I forgot an umbrella or couldn’t be bothered

to carry one, with the same red fleece coat
and wistful curls, who looks in and shares his loneliness
and gives to him a pretty smile. And I wonder
if on the days I skip class because I’m hungover
with a lover in my bed or alone with just too many fucking
dishes in my sink, if he, expectant, waits
to catch the white of my smile, so he can look
at something other than the cruel and vacant grey,
and I never come.

Cicely Williams

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