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POETRY / For the Man Being Arrested in the Alley of the Airport Diner / Ariel Francisco


That flashing red and blue 
pulls me out onto the balcony— 
I know the world  

I live in, so I’ve got my phone 
in hand, recording as too 
many cops tell this man

to put his hands against 
the wall. I recognize him
as a usual nighthawk, often  

cutting through the alley 
at any hour towards 
the gas station, coming 

out with a bottle of something,
and maybe this is what
he’s trying to tell the cops

as he turns to explain, 
before, again— 
hands against the wall!— 

his hands readjusting against
the off-white wall, head
turning away from me.

This happens over and over,
his body turning softly,
the barking in response

to even the smallest movement,
the hands back on the wall,
until, finally, they corral him 

into the backseat of a cruiser
and the flashing lights fade
into the cities ugly darkness

and I go back inside, pretend
to sleep until the diner opens
and I can try to eat, maybe coffee,

and walking over I see 
his handprints stained on 
the dirty wall like graffiti

so many times over
if I hadn’t seen it I would think
countless men had stood there. 

Ariel Francisco is the author of All My Heroes Are Broke. A poet and translator born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents and raised in Miami, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Academy of American Poets, The American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2016, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. He lives in East New York.