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Conversation After Class

Joseph Ross

for Branden

I listened carefully,
my furious chin seeming
to rest in my hand.

He told me of this assault
on the subway
two days before.

Four guys jumped him
after asking for his phone,
his seventy-five cents.

Who asks for seventy-five
cents in America?
It gets you laughter.

He sits before me today
with bandages around
a limping mouth,

his lips like cartoons.
He ought to have tweeting
birds circling his head.

He knew it was coming,
when it was coming,
he said.

He knew from the one
guy’s look. This won’t end
well, he said.

So, he told me, he took
off his shirt, knowing it was
too restrictive.

Here is a knowledge
I do not have
a degree in.

I have nothing
to heal this,
nothing but

seventy-five apologies
that America’s morning
is a dawn

purple as the spreading
bruises on his
teenage back.

Joseph Ross

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