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Homeless Man Washing His Foot in the Bathroom of a Bus Station

by Vivek Narayanan

(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’s first book of poems, Universal Beach, is forthcoming in 2006 from Harbour Line Press (Mumbai), and he has recently had poems in Harvard Review, Fulcrum, and elsewhere. His stories have appeared in AGNI 59 (“My Father, the Perfect Man,” which received Special Mention in the 2006 Pushcart Prize anthology and was an Other Notable story in Best American Stories 2005) and AGNI 61. He currently lives in New Delhi and works at Sarai, an organization that brings together visual artists, social scientists, writers, and others to reflect on new and old media forms and the city. (1/2006)

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