Claude slouches on the corner,
smile like a jar of pencils.
He flips and spins his Mattress Warehouse
Liquidation sign, knowing that any day now
he’s likely to be replaced
by an inflatable windsock version of himself
that will bop and shimmy and flail
its nylon arms tirelessly, unlike Claude,
whose arms are starting to ache
from all the sign-twirling, and whose leg muscles
are screaming like rabbits pierced
by an eagle’s talons.
Inflatable Claude doesn’t even have legs,
doesn’t need them, he’s got a fan
rammed up his asshole to make him dance,
and as long as the extension cord
remains plugged in, he will never have to stop.
Non-blow-up Claude recognizes
the precariousness of his position,
knows they’re always watching, circling the block
in their newly-waxed sedans
with shiny rims and tinted windows,
waiting for him to crumple.
Bathed in sweat and exhaust, Claude flips his sign,
shuffles back and forth on the sidewalk,
and flashes his lopsided grin at the rush-hour motorists,
hoping his fake cheeriness and halfhearted gyrations
will goad one of them into rolling down the window
and chucking something at him,
preferably something sharp and pointy
that will puncture his nylon hide
and allow him to wither, hissing,
to retire in last in wrinkled repose,
deflated on a concrete slab of pavement.