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The People He Needs to Be

I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” Minton told Mazzei. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.  

                                                                                                                            —New York Times, 7 January 2019

On the morning after— motions of people
look the same. The busboy sets his plastic
tub gently on the table, picks up a plate 
and wipes the surface clean. He’s preserving
a silence, almost invisible between the people.

The staff has turned the television
from the news to a black and white Western.
A few diners sneak looks but stare mostly
at their phones. There’s a hum beneath the hiss
and pop of bacon; the waiter being friendly
keeps cups topped off for the people. He needs

a fresh pot and so disappears. While I’m
waiting, a fellow I know sits and drums his fingers
on the table. He wants to talk. I’m enjoying
the silence, but patient. Probably why he calls
me one of the good ones. The coffee burns
on the way down. We’re a town outside 
the Army base, and people from a myriad
of jobs and places eat at the diner we can afford.  
This fellow talks about the speech but knowing 
where he is speaks low and makes quotes 
as he says The People. He needs to be

at work by eight, and I’m pretending to watch
this Western where they’re digging a tunnel
through the side of a mountain. He builds 
houses the town doesn’t need and has
a bid for a contract at the border.
He complains to me because I’m quiet
when eating my omelet and still thinking
of what you say to hate. This shutdown’s
killing me and I may have to lay off some
folk to pay off my truck. The characters 
are laying dynamite inside the mountain,
which is when this man across from me says,
louder than planned, The people he needs to be hurting,

which draws a few eyes in this military town,
and that silence that isn’t silence but the gap
of time when the flame has followed the fuse
into the mountain and before the rocks begin to fall.

                                                                                                                    —D.A. Gray

D.A. Gray’s poetry collection, Contested Terrain, was published by FutureCycle Press in October 2017. His work has appeared in The Sewanee Review, Appalachian Heritage, Rise Up Review, Rattle: Poets Respond, Still: The Journal, and The Windhover among other journals. Gray holds an MFA from The Sewanee School of Letters and an MS from Texas A&M-Central Texas. Retired soldier and veteran, the author writes, teaches and lives in Central Texas.