Pumping Gas

By Jesse Breite

A man walks from pump to
pump asking for … you know
what he’s asking for, and I
don’t want to see his face.
I don’t want to be convinced
by some jugular detail.
Behind the SUV door, I’ve
already made up my mind
he’s not worthy for—what it always
comes back to—my resources.
Men have died for the slick
I pour into the back of my car.
Besides, I’ve filled his tank before.
I’ve bought his dinner, paid
more than I ought for Girl Scout Cookies.
When I clutch my wallet to swipe,
I want to pull out my diaper bill,
show what I pay for water alone!
Last time I bought some homeless
dude’s dinner, his cell went off
while he ordered the biggest meal
on the menu, and I didn’t say it
but I wanted to ask why he couldn’t
just phone a friend for his Baconator.
I squeeze the pump in my hand.
Here he comes—and dammit,
I prepare my best take a hike/
you don’t know the troubles I’ve seen bit.
He reaches in the trash to grab
an open bag of Fritos, stares through me
for no satisfaction, and takes himself
mumbling down the sidewalk.

Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared in Spillway, Crab Orchard Review, Terrain, and Prairie Schooner. His chapbook, The Knife Collector, was published in 2013, and he is an associate editor for The Good Works Review. He is also librettist for three of Atlanta composer Michael Kurth’s scores. Jesse teaches high school English in Atlanta where he lives with his wife and son.

Photo: “Burnet Gas,” William O. Pate II (2015)