the wax paper

When Hobos Were Numerous, Hawks Were Rare

none of them went by their last names

so you had to really pay attention to distinguish, say,

Hook-nosed Pete from Gold-toothed Pete

or Whiffler Will from Lusher Louis,

when one of them brought you a peach

in exchange for your place in line

they were

dusty days

those days

seem pressed

into rough

seams 

calendar pages

rolled into 

candles

 

we sought 

safety in

numbers

–  the even 

ones more 

 

you could hear

them call or 

was it the train

whistle

 

thought to ask

whose wind is 

it?

 

caught tracing

the arc of

triumph down

to the pot of 

gold –

guarding the 

perimeter, out 

of the corner 

of both eyes – 

the worst thing

was, it wasn’t

so bad. 

 

then there was the guy at the corner bar who said he knew where the money was.

we all leaned in and one of us refilled his glass, because, of course, 

a bar is exactly the kind of place you’d go to find out

the stuff you need to make your fortune. 

he said you know how on a ruler there’s that thin metal strip along the edge

so when you try and draw a line  

it’s always farther out than you meant. Everything in between  

is up for sale. You just have to know who to call.

Susan Charkes lives in southeastern PA. Her poetry has been published in a variety of literary journals. She is also the author of three nonfiction books about the outdoors.                   

www.susancharkes.com