When that’s a wall I’m a subway rider, when it’s graffiti I’m a cop, when it’s a page of autobiography it’s a mirror and I’m another grownup kid from the Bronx, but I’m never a critic and it’s not art. The writers call me Ugly Joe or Officer Joe or Officer Ugly. They’re clever like that. They write their names on walls so you can’t even read it? For mine they use stencils, and a picture they made from my department ID. It’s a favorite topic for your vandalwriters, my alleged sexual practices: Ugly Joe Blanks Blank sort of genius. But this, this guy. This guy tells a story I also know, from the neighborhood, one page at a time. In order, we figure, but we don’t find them in order, the years we’ve been chasing him. And now that I see him, Vic Damone haircut, subway worker’s uniform, I see how he managed it, ladder and a bucket, maybe a clipboard, who would stop him? On what basis does he not belong? Must take time though, first the white paint, hour to dry, then the words, the wall of words, could take all night one numbered page, the date, same little signature. The story of his life, told while living it. Fuckin criminal, interrupt that. I know his schools, church, I can see the steeple, his subway stop. He’s born at Montefiore, same as me, page 146. You might think art school but, no—steelwork, dockwork, hump and grunt. Dad’s a cop retired like mine. We know his height, at age 15. There’s things we don’t know, like why. Maybe Earsnot, Dybyk335, maybe they know. I’ll ask them, next time I detain them. If [stricken] ever is arrested, it’ll be some rookie doesn’t appreciate what he’s up to.

Copyright © February 1, 2007 David Hodges