Posthumously, To Keith Haring

I almost stepped on the outline of a dog,
drawn with yellow paint the width of a small brush,
on the concrete slab gracing the entrance to
the 6th Street subway.
Why a dog, you might ask? Companionship, maybe,
unconditional love, perhaps, or man’s best friend.
When your friends are dying, dogs matter
more than ever. But not just dogs.
The outline of a genderless human, red paint,
arms raised in a V above the figure’s head
exclaiming freedom from context and detail and, simply,
innards, painted at eye level right on
the mosaic tile wall at the 42nd Street station.
You might want to, but you couldn’t avoid it.
An outlined figure was everywhere, underfoot, in front,
up ahead, behind, and to the side.
Every morning, I saw a new dog or human, outlined
in a different primary color, red green yellow, or black.
I dreaded seeing figures outlined black, nothing
inside, nothing outside, only a thick black border
and so like the drawings in a child’s coloring book.
I brought chalk with me one morning to color inside
the lines, but never did. To deface
the defaced seemed an abomination.
No one knew he was sick, then, the early 80s.

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Carra Leah Hood, Emerita of Writing and Associate Provost at Stockton University, writes in expository, academic, and creative genres.

Carra Leah Hood
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