You can punch my arm, he tells me, I like
the contact. The server doesn’t like it. She’s
been pinched on the ass by him once already,
once tonight, that is. He’s a regular, a neighbor
of fifty years who’s watched the warehouse this
bar now inhabits get gentrified. I used to chase
my cousins all over here, he says. That’s my park
out front. Now he can afford just a single beer,
which I watch him try to finesse in various ways,
none of which work. He asks me if the husks
in the candle glass are edible, thinking of baskets
of peanuts. In this pub, a wedge of iceberg lettuce
with a squirt of mayo costs $7, no free peanuts here.
Above us, OKC and the GSW battle for possession.
Below, there’s a different struggle, who gets to say
this is my neighborhood, my neighborhood bar,
I belong. I’m engaged in yet another, to hang
in a brewery, drink a pint, speak the lingo, to
sit next to a man of a different race as if race in
America didn’t matter, to punch him on the arm
and talk game as if it we shared common ground.
And don’t we? I listen to his mellifluous voice,
his colorful idiom, and think how, a Jew, my
voice among gentiles is just as musical, as loose.
There, I’m the one who stands out. You’d think,
in the twenty-first century, post Civil Rights, post
Holocaust, none of this would matter. Seems,
instead, we’re setting up ever more palisades of
tribe and orientation. When can we share a punch
on the arm, a game, a meal, a space, unconsciously,
as siblings do, knowing our differences, but knowing,
too, that we belong to the same crazy family?
By Devon Balwit
Devon Balwit is a poet, parent, and educator from Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has found many homes, among them: 13 Myna Birds, drylandlit, Dying Dahlia Review, Emerge Literary Journal, MAW, Rat’s Ass Review, Rattle, The Basil O’Flaherty, The Fem, The NewVerse News, Vanilla Sex Magazine, and Wicked Banshee Press.