travelers stand next to 9-5’ers who line the sidewalk, street-side no parking ’til 9 a.m. Music thunders out of the caffè. One couple chats while they wait, everyone else has noses in screens; trying not to be seen; the starlings flutter near the curb. One brave soul, tempted and cautious, hops under the two-person table to steal a crumb. The homeless man, with matted brown ribbons of hair shuffles down the line audaciously looking, or trying to look, the patrons in the eye. From somewhere inside a name is shouted over the music out onto the street, but no one lifts their head. And the homeless man keeps shuffling down the street, empty handed.
In plump raindrops, the construction worker, with his hard hat and faded denim jeans, dirty-orange safety vest, pulls taut a white string that comes from a manhole in the lane nearest the sidewalk. He labors slowly, like a man pulling a semi; like a centaur. With the rope over his shoulder each step is deliberate as he steps, one by one, away from the manhole. Each step a strain and burden. The object, which he pulls is never seen, always out of sight -much like the ones that are paying him. He puts the rope down, puts his hands on his waist, and stretches his neck. Students walk by, some chatting, some not. The sound of cars driving over the wet pavement rise and fall. Now the man begins to descend into the manhole. After not too long, when he comes back up, he has the other end of the string.
We are the culture to one-up each other.
We are blessed, let us rest.
This poem came about from the observation (after a week of listening to the news) that we seem to be only willing to point a finger outward, while completely unwilling to look inward. Increasingly we see, hear, and feel the effects of an ever expanding economy. This agenda doesn’t care for the human spirit. I see these effects in my thoughts of comparing and judging, and putting down in a desperate effort to lift myself up. Beauty is found everywhere with an open mind.
I’m having dreams again, or rather I’m remembering them. Hold my breath, don’t dare tell anyone, in case they disappear. Up in a puff of smoke. Who’s that Italian broad, ran around with Andy Warhol? she was there. Sophia Loren? nah, fashion designer or something. While adjusting her garter she told me, work. work. work. All the great ones put in the work.
Sometimes I think about wrapping my arms around everyone I see. Give the world a great big hug. Tell you all I’m sorry for not being there, for leaving you stranded, so all alone. But, dad’s here now. I got a little caught up in all that I smote, then I tried to keep you from seeing your mom. I shouldn’t have, she needs you. Sometimes I think about giving everyone I see a big hug. I’m here now; I’ll even be here while you sleep, and when you wake. Hold my hand, we’re crossing the street, the street filled with buzz bombs whirring, but don’t worry, we’ll get through it, we’ll make it to the other side. Sometimes I think, I could be the world’s dad, I’d embrace you with soft eyes, to let you know that you’re accepted. I’m a modern man now, and a modern dad. We all have it in us to give; that could be the power we seek, that could be our value we speak.
After reading SIT ON MY LAP, I’LL SHOW YOU HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Under a dense grey sky, under the gas station canopy, a black girl wonders, sentences collapsing at the edge of her lips. She’s wearing a rain jacket with the hood partially up over the back of her head. She has legs that are like matchsticks, legs that are barely there, waiting to catch fire. She’s holding everything she owns (everything she needs), cantering around in syllables, she yells to the fungus soaked maples, something about want or need. From behind the broken down cars (or nearly broken down) parked on the side of the building a white girl comes out, fiercely walking, full of intention, her short hair in a short tail, shaved on the sides. Her flannel shirt lifts in the drifts and kisses the undersides of her arms. Short shorts so short it’s like she’s wearing legs, flicks her cigarette and walks passed the black girl -with hardly a look, and she thinks something about wants or needs. The gas station remains empty, territory claimed.
On the drive into work I’m urged forward. And there’s an urge in my chest to do more. To be more. Then I feel saddened by my lack of ability to change things, to move them forward, to shape them how I want them.
On the loading dock is a bag of scrap metal. A homeless women, an addict, wearing a safety vest, with a pink mohawk falling to the side, she eyes the bag. She looks around to see if it’s safe, she doesn’t see me, though she looks right at me. She looks in the bag and decides it’s worth the take. As she starts to gather the bag in her hands, twisting it, figuring out how to get leverage enough to lift what is certainly too heavy for her to carry, awkwardly leaning over, tattooed legs, white bruised thighs, her skirt riding too high, the bag snaps. The scrap metal spills out, clanking on the pavement. She walks away looking over both shoulders with the top of the broken bag still in hand.