Posted by: M. J. Arcangelini | May 23, 2013

BOB AT THE BANK (San Francisco, 1981)

The teller approached me with a government
check in one hand and, in the other,
a third string ID card without a photo
– not quite a library card,
but not too many steps above one –

He doesn’t have an account with us, she said,
and he wants to cash this check –
i was sitting at my desk, she was standing in front of it –
she thrust both pieces of paper in my face –

the check was payable to a Bob Kaufman
the third string ID card had the same name

i looked up at her and said
Is this the Bob Kaufman?

if she’d had a little more wattage
the look she gave me might’ve risen to clueless,
instead, it was simply blank –

i stood up and looked down the long teller line
to where i gauged her window must be –

there, leaning slightly across the counter, fidgeting,
was a slender black man in ragged clothes who
looked as out of place in that bank as i felt –
i recognized him from photographs –

the poet was here trying to cash his government check
and this child from a mormon employment agency,
who dreamed of little beyond marriage and breeding,
had no idea who he was and
wouldn’t of cared even if she had –

i scrawled my initials in a corner on the front of the check,
approving it for cash,
but when she reached for it, i gripped it tight –

You treat that man with respect, i said,
trying to wedge a vague edge of threat into
my best imitation of a managerial voice,
he is a great poet –

Him? She said,
voice flat and brittle as an ancient page of microfiche –

Any time that man comes in here with a check, i said,
you bring it straight to me –

Okay, she said, reluctantly,
if you say so.
But I don’t think that ID of his
is really any good –

Never mind, i said, i vouch for him –

Well, it’s your job, she tossed back and headed to her window –
having no idea that the sashay she injected into her ass
as she walked away held no sway over me –

from a discreet supervisorial distance i watched
while she counted out the money

saw the poet thank her
pocket the cash and
quietly leave

that was the only time i saw him in the bank,
i was never called upon to approve another of his checks –

occasionally i would see him on Upper Grant street,
or walking down Columbus, or up Broadway,
or at a sidewalk coffeehouse table –

usually alone
often looking lost
or confused –

then i left The City
and moved north –

i never saw him again.


01/26/2012 – 02/09/2012
minor revisions 07/13/2012
Sebastopol, CA

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