The sign at the end of the corridor
says Authorized Personnel Only.
Are you authorized? he says.
I’m an author, I say. I have
authored. I am authorial.
Don’t be smart, he says.
I’m not smart, I say. I’m
pretty average, really. A writer
writes. Period. And reads a lot.
You can’t be here, he says,
his finger worrying his holster.
There is no verb “to be,” I say,
in American Sign Language.
Which doesn’t mean that Deaf
Americans aren’t. Or that they don’t
talk about being. And I hold up
I’m going to count to three, he says.
And he holds up one forefinger.
Your forefinger and my forefinger, I say,
are two persons, two personnel,
two pronouns, two classifiers
Two, he says.
But that’s classified, I say,
hoping it might disarm him.
Three, he says,
and I blow him a kiss.
Breaker 1-9, he says into his walkie-talkie,
staring straight at me. We’ve got
a nutjob here. Do you copy?
That’s when I take out my hand-turned
red cedar pen, and I begin copying
this all down.