No One in the Room
And here I was asking
About some child
I saw on the street
Carrying an Easter Lily.
It was spring then.
She came my way
In a crowd of turned backs
With eyes of someone
Through appearances –
And she didn’t like
What she saw in me.
Was it alarm or pity?
I always wanted to know.
No hurry replying,
I said to no one.
It’s hot, and it’s been years
Since I knew how to fall asleep.
My father attributed immortality to waiters
For surely, there’s no difficulty in understanding
The unreality of an occasional customer
Such as ourselves seated at one of the many tables
As pale as the white cloth that covers them.
Time in its augmentations and diminutions
Does not concern them in the least.
They stand side by side facing the street,
Wearing identical white jackets and fixed smiles,
Ready to incline their heads solicitously in unison
Should one of us come through the door
After reading the high-priced menu on this street
Of many hunched figures and raised collars.
We all have our hunches
The child turning from his mother’s breast
With a frightened look
To watch his grandfather raise his beer
And drink to his future happiness
In the kitchen full of unwashed plates
And busy women with quarrelsome voices,
The oldest of whom wields a rolled newspaper
With the smiling President’s picture
Already speckled by the blood
Of warm-weather flies and mosquitoes.
I’ve had my little stroll
Now, let me have a book-lined tomb
In some old cemetery
Where widows leave cigarettes and sweets
On graves of their husbands,
And lovers come to solve the mysteries
Of each other’s buttons.
Sitting, leaning against the stone
With a dog by my side.
Reading Emerson by candlelight,
Its yellow flame fretting
Like a miner’s canary.
Soul, what a lovely word!
My mind is as clear as a raindrop.
Immense, gloomy heavens
With their amateur theatricals,
Cloud gesturing to cloud,
And then at first dawn-light
A child’s cross like a shore bird
At the edge of a distant surf.
Spreading its white wings.