The Take: Clint Bowman

William

This Friday afternoon
around 5:30,
the postal clerk
will pick up his son
from baseball practice
and stop by the ABC store
on the way home.

As his son waits
in the backseat
of his Honda Civic,
a homeless man
with a scraggly beard,
and long hair beneath
an unzipped sleeping bag,
will walk towards him
from the bus stop.

As he approaches,
with a brown bag
clinched in his right hand,
the son will check the locks
and try not to make eye contact.
Around this time,
the clerk is trying to decide
which tequila to buy
for the wife
and which airplane bottles
of Jim and Jack
are the best deal.
The homeless man,
still standing by the car,
will tap on the window—
the son will shake his head
and mouth the word “no”
over and over from his
quivering lip.

The man will point
at the loose change
on the dash
as the son
begins to cry.

The clerk will grab his receipt
and walk out of the store.
As he walks back to the car,
his son will frantically point
at the stranger
and watch in terror
as the two men
make eye contact.
As the boy’s heart
races through his
Texas Rangers t-shirt,
he’ll watch his dad
hand the airplane bottles
to the man and listen
to his dad’s muffled voice
say “take care.”

Then he’ll get in the car,
and tell his son “it’s okay,
I see him every day.
His name is William.”

 

 

Editor’s Statement (written by poetry editor Malisa Garlieb)

In using the future tense, Bowman creates anticipation and forecasts dread with simple language. A reader feels tension build within as the boy “mouth(s) the word ‘no’/over and over from his/quivering lip.” Although the narrative here is one of a child misreading a situation, I was left pondering how often we, as adults, have the same naïve and fearful reactions to those we do not know.

 

 

Artist’s Statement

I wrote “William” from memories I had as a kid and combining them with current day experiences. Growing up, I had this irrational paranoia towards strangers. I attribute most of that to living far off the road and hiding every time an unfamiliar car came down the driveway. Once I moved away from that environment and into a more urban setting with displaced neighbors, I quickly learned how every human is complicated, misunderstood, and deserving of affection no matter their living situation.

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