the nice guy who comes into your home to clean your windows the friendly doctor who brings mushrooms from the woods
the puffed priest who eats your mother’s coffee cake
drinks your father’s wine hears your confession

the lonely softball coach who shows up at your soccer games to tell you
he wants you on his team
come springtime

the nice guy
who smiles too much at the gas pump
hugs you on the streets of New York
is called president of all things
when he asks you
in his office his van his vestibule
when he turns off the lights blocks the door
gives you a drink to relax
leans too close
to help with your seatbelt
your shopping cart
offers you
a recommendation a reassignment a raise
a million bucks even
holds up two fingers
tells you it is one
bends the rules breaks the rules makes the rules
promises to tell not to tell
your parents your partner your children
comments on the size of you
asks how old you are
asks why you think you are
worth his time his attention
and then assures you
you are
maybe someday
if he says so if he feels like it
he goes out of his way not to touch you
his hands as big as the moon
always forcing himself
under your skin into your brain
thoughts you would never think
images you would never see
if not for him if not for him
who makes so much does so much promises so much good in the world writes books treats disease feeds children bestows blessings

enforces laws grants loans claims discoveries
his character beyond question no one can
possibly believe the hideous charge
he is the center of the universe
you are a clump of dirt
an orbiting body
an unlucky
mote in
when he knocks selling magazines
you know you don’t want
tell him no shut the door
and when he taps on the window
pull the shade
all the way down
and when he goes around back
go out the front
into the street into the sun
he can’t do what he does
out in the open
out in the light
he will shrivel he will wilt
like a worm


Mary Panke is an emerging poet and Pushcart Prize nominee with work recently published or forthcoming in several journals, including Word Fountain, Poetry City, USA and Whale Road Review. She lives near Hartford, Connecticut with her mighty family.