Mr. Cardoza and that Black Turtle-Necked Sweater

Mr. Cardoza
when you wear that black turtle-necked sweater you look like a poet
with something profound and transcendent ripping at your soul
smooth jazz at your fingertips
and an emergency stash of coffee at the bottom of your desk.

Mr. Cardoza
when school is over,
and sometimes even when it’s not,
you sneak to coffee shops to get your fix of that bongo beat
and to those you meet your name is Tom.
Like an alley cat, you say,
running for his life from the butcher and his meat grinder.
Tom, you are an alley cat running for your life.

Tom you run,
and you run,
and you always run to the coffee shop
to tell stories about your chase
or listen to stories about other chases
or smell the coffee beans ground fresh every hour.
You appreciate that smell most of all Tom;
that smell means you’re free.

Is it nice Tom?
Is it nice to be free?
Is it?
Do you enjoy being free?
Or do you enjoy more the thrill of the chase?

You see Tom, you’re always running.
Always.
Even after you’re safe,
You go back to the butcher to run.
Doesn’t the butcher get tired?
Don’t you get tired?
Isn’t it tiring?
All that running?

But you know Tom, and I know too:
You are never safe,
and the butcher is no butcher,
and you are no alley cat.
Most of all Tom
You and I both know:
you do not run with legs;
you run with words.
So no Tom you don’t get tired.
You never get tired.

You would be tired without poetry.
Tom poetry is the fix that keeps you awake, not the coffee,
although the fresh ground coffee is irresistibly delicious.
Or so I’ve heard.
Poetry is the only thing that makes you feel alive.

But then Mr. Cardoza-
Tom-
Mr. Cardoza
when you take off that sweater you are no longer Tom,
no longer a poet,
no longer running.
You know what you are Mr. Cardoza?
You are tired.

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