Rachel Custer: “The Vagrant Considers Borrowing Sartre”




After all, why shouldn’t I? Aren’t I free? That’s a little joke, just between you and me. The problem is in being perceived. That book in my hand would make me visible. Still, the sign says anybody, and I’m sure anybody, maybe even more than anyone else. Anybody could sleep out on the street. I’ve seen it: little children and women and me. Curled up where just anybody could see. The streets make a man see-through, though, that’s the thing. People perceive what they want and nothing more. I’d like to be the kind of man could find it safe to read, could find a light each night to read it by. To turn into a statue every day. Sit like marble while mothers and fathers point out the art of me, the Sartre just another sculptor’s choice. It’s the softness makes us dangersome, you know? Grows heavy in the weather, softness does. Look, that book is immaculate, a perfect brand new paperback. And here’s me, helpless, with dirty hands.



Rachel Custer is an NEA fellow (2019). She is the author of Flatback Sally Country (Terrapin Books, 2023) and The Temple She Became (Five Oaks Press, 2017). Her poetry appears in many journals, including Rattle, OSU: The Journal, B O D Y, The American Journal of Poetry, Antigonish Review, and Open: Journal of Arts & Letters (OJAL), among others.

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