No One Loses Love That Isn't There - Poem by Ron Stock
I'm sweeping the back porch of my gallery on Pier 22 under the Bay Bridge on the San Francisco waterfront, and notice an old homeless bum sitting on a railroad tie 30 feet away. He's leaning over the wharf, staring into the water, mumbling to himself. A minute later he walks over and whispers, "Mister, I think I see a body in the water. Will you look? " I do, and see nothing. A few minutes later he asks again. I look again, carefully, trying to focus below the glistening surface. All I see are constantly shifting reflections of blue sky and white clouds. Five minutes later a large, dark-skinned black man with a square face and squid-like body walks around the corner of the fire-boat station next door. On his arm is a short, thin, caramel-skinned woman with a bottle of red wine in her left hand. She is cute, but he catches my attention, because of a yellow-white light, a halo, encircling his head. This stunning couple stops next to the old bum at the edge of the wharf. They chat. I walk out. Proclaim, "Don't listen to this old guy, he says he sees a body in the water, but I looked twice, and didn't see a thing." The young man rolls his head back, declares in this pipsqueaky voice, "Why that old cocksucker I outta tie him up an' throw him in there." The woman nervously jerks the sleeve of the man's shirt and mumbles, "Com' on honey, let's get outta here." The couple disappears around the corner of my gallery. Later, I think, 'What a weird thing to say.' Then leave town for awhile.
When I call home, I find out the authorities need to talk to me about a murder. With the tide out, someone found a body where the drunk said it was. At the police station the detectives want me to ID the couple. The auditorium is small, well-lit. Five men walk on stage, stop, turn. The man, now without his halo, is in the middle. He and I can see each other clearly. When I ask the cops to have each repeat, "Why that old cocksucker I outta tie him up an' throw him in there, " I recognize the man's pipsqueaky voice. He is accused of killing his father, an old janitor beaten about the face, but not to death. Hands and feet tied behind his back. A dish towel stuffed in his mouth. Dragged down a flight of rickety wooden stairs to the trunk of a dirty blue Chevy sedan. Driven across a seedy side of The City. Lowered to the edge of the wharf. Hands tied to two cement blocks. Buried at sea alive. When found, crab food missing 'round his eyes. I sign the Card. I do not sign the ID Card for the caramel-skinned woman, his wife. It isn't fair; one short, thin, light-skinned woman, and four, larger and taller than average dark-skinned police secretaries.
I'm on the witness stand, because I, can tie the couple to the scene of the crime. The judge is to my left. The defendants are sitting in front of a sparse audience punctuated by a front row of third grade children. The jury is to my right. During recess, the judge asks if I want to step down. I say no. The man's head, is lowered. The woman and I lock, into a staring match. Our eyes burn into each others soul. I can feel her desire to be free, but I know, she, is the woman, I saw, on the waterfront with the killer. The court is ready to reconvene: the audience, ready; the school children, ready; the jury, ready; but the judge, is not ready, he is waiting to see, who, will out stare who. Our eyes burn into each others soul. The woman looks away. The judge pounds his gavel. They both get 20 years to life.
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