Hate the sin

Once I rented a room

in a house in St. Paul

from a lady

named Madge

who used to bang on the radiator

with her shoe

when I came home drunk

late at night, after playing cards

with guys from the Pioneer Press

I’d turn up my radio

tuned to the country station

and play Ferlin Husky

at full volume

at 4:30 AM

bang, bang comes the shoe

“Keep it down Cowboy” she shouts

next day she’d squeeze

fresh grapefruit juice

and put it in front of me

with black coffee

and a fried egg

and toast with orange marmalade jam

and she’d ask if I’d met any nice girls last night

and I’d say no, just

card drunks

daytime reporters

nightime gamblers

a fallen preacher

and an old curmudgeon

named Stew

who hasn’t held a job in twenty years

who hasn’t changed his shirt in three weeks

and is easily angered

and becomes profane when provoked

and was recently arrested in Albert Lea

on charges of one hundred sixteen

parking violations

but who’s on a hot poker run

Madge says you hate the sin

but love the sinner

she wishes me well on my new job

selling vacuum cleaners door to door.