the larger truth

an old Vietnamese guy
three days unshaved
approached me in the market
with a serious question
all over his face

he held two bottles of detergent
and he knew that his question
though wordless was perfectly clear
as he urgently pointed back and forth
from one detergent to the other

and just as I started
to think he resembled a monkey
I watched his eyes impatiently arrive
at the larger truth that I
was hopelessly stupid

a very fine gift

Fat and redheaded and ugly
were all I saw when I got stuck
behind her at the checkout.

She presented her purchase,
a giant stuffed unicorn,
and announced to the cashier
with that tongue too big for her mouth
that she was taking it to a birthday party.

Retarded, too, I groaned secretly inside.
I'll never get home with my beer.

I have probably never hated myself
so much as when I saw the love
in the cashier's eyes and the tenderness
in his voice when he told her yes,
that'll make a very fine gift.

all they owned

Driving too fast in the rain
I passed a family of poor folk
sitting in the grass above the road
and watching while their raggedy van
with all they owned inside it
burned to the rims.


the racoon
that made me pee my pants
when he leered at me
through the window downstairs
at midnight like he owned the place

that same racoon, he grinned at me
before he climbed the fence and disappeared
with a striped flourish of his tail
into the darkness on the other side

he grinned at me because he knew
that thanks to that mask he wore
he could never be identified

christmas eve

Christmas Eve it was
and there we sat, my girl and I
in a waffle shop someplace in Texas
over eggs and coffee and cigarettes
all by ourselves and damned
if she didn't start crying.

I knew that Christmas Eve
alone in a waffle shop was wrong
and I, yes damn it even I
wanted to cry along with her
but somebody at the table had to smile
and pretend to be strong.

a robin

a woman sings
outside my fence
as I tend the garden

her song is shaken
by her steps as she walks
first toward me
then near me
then away again

and farther away
and her voice and her song
are snagged high in a tree
and gone

and a robin
beside the fish pond
cocks its head and carries on
with the rest of the song


near midnight of a sudden
the oak tree screamed
with the giant wings
of hawks fighting

my drink fell shattering
to the paving stones
while the birds flew mad
into the moon

and I saw white fingers
resolute fingers
digging themselves up
from the garden

copyright © 2006 michael wildman

Michael Wildman was both a staff and freelance writer of general non-fiction for magazines in the 1980s and '90s. He stopped writing for a time to pursue other interests, and has returned with a different brain. He lives in New York City.

More of his poetry, and some of his fiction, can be found at his Website at