ESSAY: The Poet of Rose Street


Walking is still my favorite way to meet dangerous people.

I’ve only been mugged once. The guy looked like me. Exactly like me.

“I’m a writer,” I told him. As he breathed on my empty wallet.

“You can have the wallet, if you want.”

He sniffed it.

“Is it leather?”

I shook my head.

“It’s pretty convincing, though.”

He didn’t look convinced. He passed it back to me.

“Sorry about that,” he said.

My doppelganger walked away.

Probably to work on his novel.


Not everyone who looks dangerous is. I’m assuming.

I was standing at a crosswalk. None of the cars would stop. I’d been waiting ten minutes. The same people who hold the door open for you at the grocery store will try hard to flatten your skeleton with their cars.

“Hey,” said a guy behind me. A sunburned man. With a mustache.

“Can you guess what I have in this bag?”

He was straining to carry a large black garbage bag.

He was smiling.

I didn’t guess three Texas mickeys of rum. That’s what it was.

“I stole them from the liquor store,” he said.

“And stuffed them down my pants.”

“One down one leg, one down the other.”

“What about the third bottle?” I said.

He only laughed.

His eyes were like puddles of rum.

He laughed again.

He shook my hand.

Then he ran into traffic.

Tires screeched. But he made it to the other side alive. More or less.

“Next time you see me,” he hollered, “call me Buddy Boy.”

“Okay,” I hollered back.

Then I went back to waiting.


You can meet non-dangerous people, too, on a city walk. If you have time.

That’s how I met the Poet of Rose Street. He was an overweight guy who sat on the bench in front of the cathedral across from the ice cream shop. Every night. I sat beside him, sometimes.

Once in a while, the poet would pull a notebook out of his pocket and write down a word or two. It looked like poetry.

It might’ve been a grocery list.

I’m pretty sure he was homeless.

We never talked, really. We just sat there and ate ice cream.

One night, I saw a man run straight out of the cathedral, across the street and into the ice cream shop. He didn’t even check for traffic.

The poet pulled out his notebook, jotted something down. It looked like either ennui or eggs.

I leaned closer but he snapped the notebook shut. And picked up his butterscotch sundae.

I didn’t see the poet for a couple months. I was trying to lose weight. Then I did see him.

Only not on the bench.

He was on the news.

He’d called in a bomb threat at the casino.

I guess he was dangerous after all.

I never saw the Poet of Rose Street again.

I lost ten pounds.


I’ve spent half my life waiting at crosswalks.

There I was again.

I saw an opportunity…

I took one step off the curb. If I’d taken two, a cop car would’ve flattened my skeleton.

I didn’t get a great look at the back seat passenger. But I was pretty sure it was a sunburned guy. With a mustache.

“Buddy Boy,” I whispered.

Then I ran across the street.


First published in Outlook Springs.

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