Rick Smith


Down on my luck in Center City, Philadelphia.

The humidity, the heat

and no money.

Shoplifting dinner.

Shoplifting pot holders from The Acme

to sell door-to-door off Roosevelt Blvd.

I’d say, “made by the handicapped.”

That’s what sold them.

Slipping cardboard into the holes

in the soles of my shoes,

no match for the August sidewalks,

the miles of sticky, merciless asphalt.

When I couldn’t afford the YMCA,

it was the all night movie house

on Market. “Ivanhoe” till dawn,

3 ½ times through.

Even Liz Taylor couldn’t save it.

And a few rows up,

Some guy yelling,

“hey, whose fucking hand is this?”

At the Horn & Hardart Cafeteria,

the lemon slices, the sugar, the water,

the oyster crackers were free.

This night, I had the money,

I sat in the lobby

with a bunch of other down and outers,

all of us

denying our dark gods

and watching the Phillies lose again.

It was a long summer for everyone.

RICK SMITH is a clinical psychologist specializing in brain damage and domestic violence; he practices in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He is a professional harmonica player who writes and plays for The Mescal Sheiks and can be heard on the soundtrack of the Academy Award Winning “Days of Heaven.” Recent books are The Wren Notebook (2000); Hard Landing (2010) and Whispering In A Mad Dog’s Ear (2014), all from Lummox Press. His essay “Snowed In With Carl Sandburg” appeared in the 2019 issue of Under The Sun.