Robert Joe Stout

The Stranger 

Like an immigrant whose hands are filled
with coins from other countries
worthless in the marketplace of daily need
I knew that I was wealthy
but without a way to purchase, barter,
hock, redeem. Which made me poor
in fact but not in my own mind,
a circumstance quite difficult to share.
Enamored by this wealth
not evident to others
I accepted the disguise some called reality
and worked and played and talked
and drank, an exiled prince
among the hoi polloi
with whom I shared all but my separate sense
of self, square peg upon a checkerboard
of small round holes. Wedged uncomfortably
I somehow fit—or seemed to fit—
as long as I could rub and polish,
sort and count
my secret selves: the me I am
not the Other with a blurry smile
in Facebook photographs.


I watch the pitcher’s arm,
the ball a blur; I swing,
connect, run hard,
stay on the baseline,
can’t see first, can’t see the pitcher
just the chalk line, keep on running,
panting, cap blown off, cleats a-tangle,
wrench myself to keep upright, run,
run towards something gray and fading
where? where is first?
realize I’ll never make it
as I trip and writhing with bed covers
see the doorway, gray in dawn light,
hear from somewhere
a voice calling
Out! You’re out! You’re out!

Robert Joe Stout is a freelance journalist and currently resides in Oaxaca, Mexico. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear in a wide variety of commercial and literary magazines.



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