A Poet to Watch 

by Bruce Holland Rogers

 

Carlos called his mother with the news. “Page thirty of this month's Writer's Digest,” he told her. “Ten young poets to watch in the coming decade. Guess who's number three?”

“How about that!” his mother said. He heard her say to his father, “Carlos is one of the young poets to watch. It says so in a magazine.” Carlos heard his father's voice. He couldn't tell what his father was saying, though he recognized the tone of voice. Probably something about a job, or money, or food on the table. His mother said, “We're both proud of you! When are you coming for a visit?” Then she was full of news about his nephews and nieces and the children of his cousins and the comings and goings of friends of hers that he'd never been able to keep straight, as if all news were the same whether it was a niece who had lost her first baby tooth or a son being listed in a national magazine. Suddenly, he wanted the conversation to be over. He didn't want to hear that Carmen Flores needed a hip replacement.

When he finally did hang up, he was like a lemon rind squeezed of the last drop of juice. He had crowed with joy when a friend had called to tell him about the magazine. He had danced to the bookstore to buy a copy. A young poet to watch! But now....

That night, alone, he drank all the beer in the refrigerator. He woke late the next morning, didn't bother to shower, and dressed in the clothes from the day before. The magazine lay on the floor. He didn't bother to pick it up. He brushed back his hair with his fingers. Fine. It was the first day of being a poet to watch. He should write something.

He went to his desk. He turned the pad to a fresh page, sat poised with a pencil. Glancing out the window, he caught movement in the bushes outside his apartment. He tried to ignore it. If he let himself be distracted, perhaps there would be no poem today. What should he write? He could start anywhere. He could start with this moment. He felt hungover. He closed his eyes, tried to sort his headache into words. When he opened his eyes, a flash of color moved outside. He looked. He saw a woman standing behind the bush, a woman in a yellow parka. There was a man next to her. They were looking at the window of Carlos's apartment. Another man had climbed a tree. There were people crouching behind parked cars, looking at him. Some had binoculars trained on Carlos. Watching.