The Nod

By Kenneth Hart

Featured Art: Bar-room Scene by William Sidney Mount

Guys like us, we nod to each other
when we pass on the street at night.
We get that things are okay at the moment.
The Nod says, you-don’t-mess-with-me,
I-don’t-mess-with-you. That’s how it is
with guys like us, because the world is a bad place—
that we get—and we get that guys like us
have something to do with it.
But not tonight: you’re black, I’m white, we’re both
black or white, whatever, we’re cool,
nobody’s going to throw hands,
—who said anything about throwing hands?
Because it’s not a look, nobody says
“What are you lookin’ at, dipshit?”
No. The Nod reflects and respects
and steers clear of trouble. It says
we acknowledge our mutual suspicion,
which masks our fear
(we both get that The Nod is part mask).
The Nod: Okay bud, I’d drag you out
of a burning building, you’d pick me up
if I fell off a barstool, cool, we know that,
just don’t ask anything of me right now
unless it’s some kind of fucking emergency.
I’m on my way somewhere.

Kenneth Hart teaches writing at New York University, and serves as Poetry Editor for The Florida Review. His poems have recently been published in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Hart’s book, Uh Oh Time, was selected by Mark Jarman as winner of the 2007 Anhinga Prize for Poetry.

Piece originally published in NOR 13.

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