Leroy Johnson lives in the Regal Motel
In scenic downtown Sedalia.
His father shined shoes.
His grandfather was a field hand.
Leroy is 60, a one-time Baptist who's been too drunk
To go to church for the last 35 years.
His beverage is often Falstaff beer, which he likes to drink
Alone on the streets at night, taking in the cold
Inside and out.
His smoke is a cheap cigar,
Whatever gets nicotine to the blood quickly,
With the least nausea.
He eats cheaply -- rice and beans and vegetables
With just enough hot sauce,
On a hot plate in his room.
He was once a tough little fellow.
Respected in all the taverns in town.
Now he tries to stay out of everyone's way, for his belly
Is soft, his hands slowed, his reflexes listless.
His clothes are mostly black and brown, matching his skin.
His income used to come from the numbers,
sometimes from whores, now from dishwashing.
He could have been a mathematician.
He is as American as a baseball game,
And as much a stranger in his own land
As his long-lost appendix is
To his own bloated side.
Copyright 2007, by Jon Gregory. Written in 1988.