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Bill Christophersen

The Fish He Fry


Slogging up Broadway in a cold rain, I see 
a middle-aged black—army jacket, no legs—
in a wheelchair, shaking a cup of coins that
just then slips from his hand, the contents
scattering on the sidewalk.  “I’ll get that,”
I say, crouching.  He looks away, nods his head.
I pick up the dollar, six quarters, two nickels
and a dime and replace them in the paper cup,
which, soggy and overused, collapses in my hand.
So I do the deed again, handing the tattered cup
back to him with both hands.  He takes it in one, 
looks to the side, nods.  I walk a block, duck
into a pizzeria, wash my hands in the washroom,
get a slice for dinner, then, as I’m leaving, 
grab a waxed-paper soda cup.  I walk back to the 
double amputee.  “Here,” I say, “this should work
better.”  Nods, takes the cup, transfers the money.
And then, because I’m embarrassed I didn’t
buy him a slice, and because I want, I suppose,
some sort of verbal closure, and because
I’ve just lost one more friend to cancer and 
am feeling sideswiped, I say, “What 
do you think:  Does God care for us?  Or 
does He maybe have bigger fish to fry?”
Looks sideways, hawks up some phlegm, says
quietly to the mailbox, “We the fish He fry.”


He said, Render unto Caesar
my ass!  Whose money is it,

He said, Blessed are the peacemakers.  
I own a piece myself—a Colt 45.  

He said, Blessed are they that
hunger and thirst; God will take 
care of them.  My administration 
sure as hell won’t.

Build the wall! they shouted.

He said, Blessed are the sick.
We have a terrific country, and
if some of these people don’t 
have health insurance, there’s
always the emergency room.

He said Megan Kelly “had 
blood coming out of her eyes.  Blood
coming out of her . . . wherever.”

He said Ted Cruz’s father
was with Lee Harvey Oswald
shortly before Kennedy was killed.

He said Hillary Clinton 
ran a child prostitution ring out of 
a D.C. pizzeria.


Lock her up! they chanted.

He said, I’ll bring back waterboarding 
and much, much worse.

And they—
the evangelicals—
followed him into the wilderness.




Inscribed on a Bathroom Stall at Yankee Stadium


Take me out of this brawl-game! 

Beam me up from this crowd.

What’s with these wing-nuts and crackers, Jack?

I’ll be damned if I’ll ever come back. . . .

Yeah, it’s root-toot-toot for the home team:

tribe, sect, state—it’s the same:

If you’re not like me, then you’re out

at the old ballgame.

How I Learned about Racism


In 1960, my fifth-grade classmate Warren

tagged along with me after school to the prewar

housing development I lived in—a place that,

I had recently noticed, didn’t seem to have any 

blacks or Puerto Ricans living there.  We hit

the playground with the tall monkey bars.  

As we surveyed the world from our roost in

the upper bars, a housing authority policeman

motioned me down.  “You may not know it,

but Negroes aren’t allowed in here.  Is your 

father going to take responsibility for him?”

(Warren, by this time, was standing upright,

striding around on the topmost bars in his 

leather wing tips, eight feet above the cement.)

“Of course,” I said.  

                                   That evening at dinner, 

partly to distract attention from the uneaten

peas on my plate, I told my father what the cop

had said.  Dad had taught me years earlier never  

to call a Negro a nigger; had deplored the angry

white crowds spitting on the first black kids to 

attend the main high school in Little Rock—and

Governor Orval Faubus, who had called out

the Arkansas National Guard to prevent those

kids from attending.  Dad finished chewing his 

boiled sweet potato.  “I hope you said ‘No.’”

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