Sunlight Beckons Beyond the Dumpster
My twelve-year-old daughter, reading a novel,
comes across a new word. She asks, “what is dauntless?”
I say, "To lack daunt. To be without it." As if that helps.
She asks, “So, do we have any?” I have to say I don’t know.
No one ever asked. & I wouldn’t know where to look.
The bookshelf? The back of the fridge? Nothing.
So next time I'm downtown and some worn out guy
stretches out a hand I’ll have to shrug, point to my hips
& make the empty-pocket gesture & say with my face,
maybe next time, bro; because you see, I’m dauntless.
& I’d walk away embarrassed because maybe that’s a lie
& I have some beside the quarters in the my car's cup holder
that I didn’t give to the guy with the sign on the corner
near Dunkin Donuts when I stopped at the light.
Or not. Because probably really I’m dauntless. Which is not
to say I’m undaunted, since that presumes I once had it,
or having lost it plan to get some more. Getting some,
what would I do with it? What would anyone do?
Invest it, I guess. But not in a bank; not at these rates.
I’d have to find a firm. Invest aggressively. Take risks.
Watch my daunt grow. Buy up companies; sell off the parts.
Get it at the source: mines, mineral rights, key lanes of transport.
Workers toiling night & day: mountain tops removed; slick water
horizontal drill rigs churning; whole forests leveled & replanted
to monocrop daunt. Because there’s only so much of it
& so much need, & if there isn’t need I’ll make it with ads
on the Sunday morning talk shows & Buzzfeed pop-ups.
So long as I can keep the unions out. Easy enough
if I spread some around the right people. But really,
I’m not that ambitious & don't think myself greedy.
I just want enough for me. How I get it doesn’t matter.
Let’s just say I met a guy who knows a guy who has a connection
& told me when to meet him in the alley behind the Shoremart.
Yes, it costs more than I want, but I don’t get to set the price.
I meet the man, who offers me a taste, because that’s good business.
I can feel my cheeks flush & that pleasant buzzing on my gums.
But around the block there’s another two guys waiting,
which I should have expected. I don’t resist, but I don’t show fear.
My impulse is to stare at the gun, but I look the guy
right in the eye. He’s scared too & refuses my gaze. His partner
rifles my pockets, shoves me hard against the dumpster.
I hold my own: chest out, heart racing, on the verge of tears.
It’s snowing maybe, or raining, or maybe the sun is out
& a warm breeze is telling me to pull myself out of the shadows
& start the day on a firmer foot. But I remain on the greasy bricks
stuck in darkness where I am: fearful & needy
& full of remorse, undaunted & still dauntless.
Roger W. Hecht is the author of a collection of poems, Talking Pictures (Cervena Barva Press). His poems have appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Zoomoozophone, Diagram, Elimae, and Denver Quarterly. He lives near Ithaca, NY.