Home > Poetry > Homeless Man Washing His Foot in the Bathroom of a Bus Station
Published: Sat Jul 1 2006
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Homeless Man Washing His Foot in the Bathroom of a Bus Station

(Charleston, South Carolina)

How I trail in,
desperate to decode or divine the record
that would open and end
this ancient baptism under a cold fire,
fluorescent light. How I try
and do not matter. How I’m left to depend
on irregularly regressing detail: his flared
boots worn thin,

and their flaps, twisted,
stiff at oblique angles; his jeans darkened
below the knees and corroded
in streaks; or his yellow cap
which still bore, monogrammed
in green, the cheerful hieroglyph of a former
employer. And his foot, under the tap,
unmoving, blistered,

a fat brown eel
against the porcelain; and the purple
wash of blood returning,
veins aligning, in branches under
the chipped-bark skin
of the image of the foot of this man, who
with tap water and coarse hands was trying
to make his body feel.

Vivek Narayanan is the author of two poetry collections, Universal Beach and Life and Times of Mr S. “Une Cave, Une Caverne, Un Trou” is a long poem from his current manuscript-in-progress-a “writing through” of Valmiki’s Ramayana, the foundational sanskrit epic. Narayanan was a 2013–14 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. (updated 4/2015)

Back to top