Where did I get
A crazy idea like that? You see, for a moment there—
In my panic, my desire
To run away,
I actually thought—it actually seemed possible—
That, well, since I was not
Since I partook
In the being, the identity, the....
How do I say this?
I don’t know.
I never thought it out clearly.
Sometimes I tell myself it was all
Just a bunch
Of mistakes, a random
Sequence of... well, of carelessness. That week
On our route, there was probably
Mail carrier. I can almost see
Uniform. He or she would have been overwhelmed, falling
To details—rushing, eventually stuffing
Into slots just to empty
The sack, finish the shift, and get
The hell home.
But then I think
That incompetence, no less than blindness, can be
A source of insight, and mistakes
The true structure of...
Anyway, it began, I now realize, on a Monday
Morning, about six
Months ago, in the waiting
Of the D.A.’s office, during
The investigation, the aftermath, whatever
You want to call it, that period
Of agitated gloom, of sudden, unwanted
Notoriety, when the shock
That each of us
Could barely articulate to ourselves became
There were a half-dozen of us, I suppose, all
Faces from my neighborhood, sitting
Quietly on the benches. The only one I knew by name—
Richard, a downtown
Seemed too hungover to talk. We had all
A.M. interviews, and at nine-thirty we all
Still sat, watching
File their weekend reports. Now I knew
How these things
Worked—how the life of a witness
Consists almost exclusively
Of waiting, so I’d brought along three
Newspapers, which I shared with the grateful, courtly, older
Black man in a dazzling
Bright blue suit
Who sat beside me.
Now I should explain that I live
Across the street and half-block down from the apartment
Where Richard Vulmer
Committed his crimes, that my building
Has the same floor plan as his—except reversed, because
It’s on the other
Side of the street, that my studio is number
Just like his, the mirror image, the transposed
Of that sad gruesome place. More than once
And photographers took shots of my door, when they couldn’t
His, so that the age-speckled
In stock footage and file photos
Represent, to an anxious world, the last boundary
Between sanity and the unimaginable
Of something kindred to love, more likely than not
Are the numbers
To the door I lock and unlock every day.
Everyone in the neighborhood had been questioned
By the police
At least once, and by the media, as often
As we chose. I, perhaps
Unethically, had pulled from my computer
To a baffled public
The record of Vulmer’s maddeningly
Taste in movies: much was made, by certain national
And late-night talk show hosts of Vulmer’s
From me, before
He was caught: Twins, with Danny DeVito and Arnold
Schwarzenegger—you know, the banality
Of evil, and so on.
And now, three weeks later, we were all
Being questioned again, after Vulmer’s suspicious
Suicide in jail, and Samantha Jones’
Allegations. I figured I must have said something worthwhile
To the humorless
Detective who came wearily to my store
The day after Samantha’s
News conference, with the Reverend
Le Roy Walker standing
Beside her, the one where she
That wedding gown.
The next day the cop returned, calling me in
For a special
Monday morning chat with a D.A.
I had long since finished reading the news, and had started
Crossword puzzle when they finally remembered
They had us all waiting and I moved
So an old woman with thinning white hair
And a thick
Eastern European accent could pull
Her oxygen tank
Past me and go in
To the little office to give her evidence.
The third puzzle had defeated me and I was perusing
For a high-fiber Easter when at last
They called my name.
D.A. behind the desk and the cop who filled
The other fiberglass
Both looked tired and grouchy so I didn’t mention
Tim or joke around
About their Indoor Winter
Softball League. I sat down, and when the D.A.
Lifted his head
From his stack
Of reports and asked me, deadpan, what I knew about
Gunther Mandrake, I looked
At his grim face and struggled to suppress
Impulse to giggle.