Waiting for Someone
On the bulkhead over the bar
Names of steamers that used to stop here
The river silted with new islands and old tyres
I’ve been postponing this drink for hours
She says, though I hadn’t inquired
Across the alley where the train station
Once held court, exposed brick, hardwood floors
Where I stood at the entrance, five years old,
My hand in my mother’s, red caps pushing carts
Steam rising, throbbing train engines
Aiming north or south, hissing and blowing
Flurry of snow, so much authority among
The businessmen, women in mink, conductors
Don’t pay attention to Harold, she insists
He isn’t tactful, he isn’t anything
But I was studying the smoke-stained
Painting beyond the bottles and mirrors
A woman examining her shoulder for freckles
Or bruises, in a perilous boredom
Once, years earlier, I had contemplated
Even monotony has moles, places where hair grows.
I thought she might hit him with her glass
But Harold vanishes for cigarettes
An iron tint to the water, just before freezing rain
Crosses the city pond with a crisp leaf or two
Feigning indifference, knowing where irony lay
Next thing you’re babbling like an escaped convict
After a six-pack has gone down his gullet
Cabbages in snow, old ladies with dull stories,
Crested birds popping rotten red berries
But you get my drift, I can’t recall if I
Was up north or not, or even married.
Then a tall man pushing through the festooned door
Resembled my father, when I hadn’t had such a thought
You’re drifting, she said
Between reality and the pseudo-event.
It’s like a new cotton nightgown,
Printed with songbirds, which one touches . . .
It’s as simple as that. Could-a-beens
Don’t buy you a beer. The sash and sway
Of platitudes . . . No, he replied, I’m concerned
With fondness . . . She made a deprecating
Gesture, how wisdom has abandoned the school
System, how pleasantness has abandoned
The borders of towns. She said, it’s like
Busts and statues in the back corridor
Of the art museum, suspended dust, pigeon shit
Bleeding over the windows, the red light
Of exit . . . You don’t really feel that way
Do you? he asked. I’ve had some misfortunes,
She answered faintly, raised her finger
And her voice, disasters, actually.
Before returning to her tea
She brushed both her earrings, as if to see
If they were still attached.
But Jennifer, he pleaded . . . Her flat hand
Stopped him. Don’t talk to me of fondness.
Don’t quote Rilke either
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