Roads of Wyoming

In Cody
I remember the woman with no teeth who was crying.
We sat huddled together at the abandoned bus stop
waiting to go nowhere at all.
I wanted to give her a couple of cigarettes
or maybe even the whole pack
but then I wouldn’t have any, so I kept them,
and I moved on.

In Spokane
I was living at the park with the other homeless people.
Me and my friend were showing off
to the college girls that passed by
but I got tired of that
so I climbed a cliff about thirty feet high
and when I stood on top I could see the whole city
and when I looked down I saw a kid about my age
wearing black Converse shoes
his body covered by a ripped orange tarp.
His hands were on his stomach, cradling his severed head
and I said, well, at least you can’t feel anything—
but I wasn’t sure who I was talking to.
I couldn’t speak for a couple of days after that
and one night, by the fire,
I noticed that I was wearing black Converse shoes,
wrapped in an orange poncho
and I knew that I would never talk again
if I stayed there, so I got up,
and I moved on.

Outside Spokane
I gave a woman my last five dollars because she looked like
the woman in Cody who I wanted to give cigarettes to.
But even after she had the money,
people still turned their heads from her in shame
and I thought, what difference does this really make?
Five dollars might last half-a-day
and then she’ll still be the same anyway.
I was totally broke now, and I wished
I hadn’t given away all my money, so I made a note,
and I moved on.

In Denver
I was sleeping at a friend’s place
when I heard gunfire and jumped up and remembered
oh yeah, this is Denver, and went back to sleep
not too bothered by the drive-by-shooting.
In the morning
I heard that a little boy had been shot in the crossfire.
I was sad in a way
and wanted to do something to help.
Three weeks later, I was still there,
unable to think of any way to help, but I heard
he had gotten better anyhow and I felt better,
so I lit-up a found, half-cigarette, inhaled,
and began moving on.
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He has a wife, Vickie, and a daughter, Sage. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including Prime Mincer, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Fox CryPrairie Winds and The Red Cedar Review, with forthcoming work in The William and Mary Review, Bluestem and Two Thirds North.