after James Wright
Just off the highway to Tacoma, my friend and I
stop for gas in North Bend.
While he buys sweet rolls wrapped in cellophane,
I use the restroom. On the metal frame
above the stall door, I read
nigger/mexican bar. Because I’m as white
as the man who wrote it, it takes a few seconds
before I see the rope
around a dark neck. Jesus, I think,
the seat a frigid halo against my cheeks. I’m afraid
the clerk will shrug, as if this is another joke
is in your hand. I’m afraid she’ll see my friend
licking sugar flakes from his queer fingers
and call the boys.
She’s outside smoking a generic cigarette.
A line of smoke jets from the corner
of her mouth. Son-of-a-
bitch, she mutters, having scrubbed it off
three times already. She is too thin,
and her hair falls flat as road dust
in the gasoline-scented breeze.
I am home once more as her break
ends with a stubbed promise—
I just might lock that door,
let ‘em keep their crap to themselves.