May 26, evening
Some moments have their own precision,
others ask you to provide it for them,
ladling it from your pockets
that hold so much in reserve.
I might be anything to anyone.
With so few people in the place,
the workers become performers,
as if it's necessary to lift the edge
of the canvas tent and invite inside
the cautious spectator, bored
as he might be with himself,
eager to find a communal moment.
That's what they called it
in the lecture we attended,
and breathing the dust
of incessant sweeping
is an occupational hazard,
but not enough to bet the ranch on.
Have you found a pen that suits?
I wouldn't want you to strain yourself
or sprain the weaker ankle
trying to keep up.
If there's a togetherness factory
I'd like to know about it,
pose with you there for the cheap
jacket photo, the one where
I hold a panda by the paw
and affect nonchalance.
Through the window their eyes met
and it was as if her mind made itself up
in the instant if only to catch a spark
from his, but his was utterly empty
of any thought but was furnished
by looking at her. And so
they found each other and parted
and the night grew later, lights came on,
that milky color held the sky
and some folks, oppressed
by these vacant streets, availed themselves
of reacclimated wonder, in limited doses
and conversational tones.
We were all struck by the way
her strong, broad shoulders
shone in the sun, as if
grasping an image is its own reward
and cocking an ear to salsa
a kind of humble penance,
dancing a purgatorial expiation,
out of many, one.
We didn't believe they'd really
hold us back, these stimulants,
or stunt our growth. More power
to those who keep their appointments
with the comfy chair. He's not
an idiot, though it's easy
to be styled one these days
as who should say there is a clear path
to the edge of the canyon or cliff
overlooking the long drop, and why
tell me anyway if all along you had no time,
no circus under your covers, no dent
in the rigorous front you deny,
if only to caution strangers walking
backwards who assume too much too late?
The last hurrah is often a bit feeble
and those who expect support
may find themselves in an attic
with no flashlight, sometimes
stepping into empty space or
wishing they would. Dear Emily
gathered up the dead flowers
and returned to the palpable hush.
There was no one on that veranda,
many testified later, and yet
a voice could clearly be heard.
“They'll mark your name
when you least expect it,” it said,
“get on up the road.”
©Donald Brown 2010/2013