(Cartoon by Mike Allen)

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A Chance Encounter With Fear

I met a man who smells
and I leaned in.
I read his whole life story
through my nostrils.
It was about loneliness.
His leather and his tweed
were full up of cheap whiskey,
and ramshackle cook fires,
and tobacco too long outta the barrel.
I said, “hello,”
and he looked confused
and wondered aloud what I meant by it.
I tipped him my hat
and brushed him by
with a well-civilized shoulder.
He put his hand up
and he caught my chest
with a hard breath
of diesel fuel and dirt.
I turned my head and caught his eyes.
They said “thank you,”
And mine said “I’m sorry.”

— Andy Bowen