Shrove Tuesday

Today the fifth
anniversary of his death
she comes across
the journal he kept the one

he was a student at Pfeiffer
not much there a few clumsy poems a para-
graph about life
and something he scratched through
the beginning

of a character piece on Walt
Rainey who woke
up one morning to find fifteen
hundred dollars

from the old coat
he used as a safe in the abandoned Ford 
chassy where he lived 
still lives off of Sunderland Hall Road 
still out

his rickety bicycle every day rain
or shine eighty-two
years old
hardly make a run down Church 

Street without 
him and today nothing will 
do but we get in the car and go find
old Walt to

give him
five dollars she says because he's one
of the angels
who inhabit the earth and watch
over us and for all

we know he
doesn't have any food to eat or
a coat for this cold
front coming in tomorrow
and like

that until after a sweep
up Church and down Union God
grants us a vision of
Walt taking a break across
the street

from the Dairy Queen
sitting cross-legged on the curb
with a paper napkin
tucked in his collar dipping his fingers
into a banana

shake and throwing
away the chunks of fruit like peanut
hulls not anywhere near
starving from
the looks of it but she gets

out of the car
anyway and bends down to whisper some
kind of benediction
trying to fold his sticky wrinkled 
fingers around the five when

all of a sudden Walt
grabs hold
of her wrist and jerks
her down into his lap and while she's
screaming bloody

murder and struggling to get
up again milk
shake all over her Walt jabbers away a mile
a minute holding
her close and rocking side

to side like Ray
Charles doing Georgia
on his mind and by the time I get over
there and pry them
apart she has balled the five

up in her fist
and drawn back ready to hit
him in the face with
it calling him a wooly booger and a false
prophet and every other

name she can think of till
I've got her locked up safe in the Camry again
where she suddenly
stops talking altogether scrooched over
next to the door all

the way home staring at the jack
pines like they
were people lined up to
say I told you so and as usual in
these matters

I keep my distance and don't volunteer any
counsel because sure as I did it
would all be my
fault because I don't

in angels or redemption and because
I am always making
up damn fool questions like if Jesus
was without
sin then why did he

ask John
to baptize him or if he was truly
a sinner
and really needed
to get baptized then wouldn't

he be somewhat
less than perfect somebody that wanted his
cake and eat
it too which when I brought
that one

up she quit speaking 
to me for a whole week and started going
to the cemetery
all by herself without even asking me

to drive
only tonight is different tonight
she's standing
in the bathroom with her flannel
robe pulled

tight around her staring
at herself in the mirror still
as a statue
whispering it like
she was at confession that what

Walt Rainey had
told her was he would be a angel or anything
else she
wanted him to if she would just take
him home with

her and wrap her sweet
mama titties around his dick and not look
away when he shot
some pomade on them Shirley
Temple curls

James Lineberger