Another eye rolls in my direction, and one accountant
telephoning on the corner whispers “cigar and medicine.”
I don’t care what he waits for. I walk past the stairways
leading under buildings where revolution is being planned.
Participate if you want, but you should start off on your own.
A man dressed in white (probably a chef) throws a black bag
on the street. “Don’t forget to breathe,” my mind attempts
to explain to me. I need to watch the iron fence with chipped
paint. Rust, the rubber color of a college track field, shows.
I can believe in shadows between the buildings when there is sun.
Air conditioners protrude from windows, not that I could bother
looking up. You like painting on masterpieces. Not that the world
thinks you are only lazy, because I know you are lazy and a bitch
for boys walking dogs. You’re employed because it is something
to say. I prefer graffiti and the facts surrounding accidents. Vultures
know better. Sometimes I feel it is only those I don’t know
that make this city great, or city per se or even aerodynamic.
No one with wits keeps their name tag after they enter the world.
The same goes for land, but I try not to think about it. My mind
likes to think of freedom, and it is only society that says I need
society. The artist has yet to finish his face. Society tells him
it must be complete, or else be a man with a different name.
A refreshing thunder pops an ear, and the world is back in business.
Even realizing the bricks are painted didn’t stop the people
from thinking rain. It’s more effective than a principle
or an ass-kisser using the PA system in school for the morning
announcements. The people in the coffee shop windows have great
views from where they’re sitting, watching the drops trickle and drip
down the window. I’m just as honored, if not more, for getting wet.
Even better, I have a story to tell with descriptions rather than perception
leading the way. Things like that matter to me, like a cat eating catfish,
almost directly between the horizontal and vertical. Forty-five degrees
outside at the end of February. I want to help make posters yesterday.
As it turns out, I was free to have you tell me to come over with my scarf.
I come to a conclusion that the bus stop needs a radio and advertisements
need to have markers scrawled over them and follow the restroom stall
traditions of phone numbers and poetry. The street would have been
glazed with gold if there was a sun, but the overcast makes each place
even in ways communism decides not to. I know when to vote
thank you, man holding out pamphlets, you help me acknowledge
the fact that I must keep moving. The rain stops and people walk
in groups of three. I get to the part where storefronts are polished
stone. I heard the large handbags are somewhere nearby.
I want to see one up close, to see the animal that used to be
without. It really is a shame of glass and gold, paper blows
in front of limousines. Where is the manner of dead trees?
Let the sweet makeup wake up tomorrow night with neon lights reflecting
in her eyes. Amusement has to replace the stars dwellers never see. I’m
an exception because I take the train to a rooftop forty miles away.
I don’t have a computer or a way to take those pictures of you slowly
turning to face me. It’s my failing to not contort myself to fit your style.
The art has more color on the event horizon, just before we collapse
and accept how wrong we almost became. None of the taxis are stopping.
After thousands of rides, subways still feel romantic. Not the train,
just the station, an organ where the blood travels through. I can do
so much less than this girl or that guy, that I walk through doors that slide
open on their own. The bones in my feet are aware of the small fragments
they are in the grand scheme of things, but they still do their part.
Up and out and up and outside I feel the gray wind down the avenues.
The burdens jog with frustration. If I were to ask, they would smile.
Pillows get the attention they deserve for both flaws and talents. Rarer
than Wednesday meat, the stairs slant upwards into bulbs and silence.
Deflated balls of sports and rims without nets are much less tragic
in the snow. This simple fact can convince me of better days, but it has
yet to snow at all this winter. A priest mentions global warming, a doctor
mentions Jesus, and I tell everyone about a friend who thinks he can
solve any crisis by driving a Cadillac off a bridge. I try to tell him
the water is too shallow, and he accuses me of not understanding reason.
It figures eights while playing the flute. I notice there is less water now.
The last person to see the bucket is the recently immortal blind man.
Genies don’t get to choose how to spend time. I do, and I spend it
rubbing lamps and obscure gravy boats looking for magic. It weakens
me, but I call it a few days of eccentric hope, and sometimes I win
small amounts. Slushy curbs can be fun to disturb, if the day is off, I doubt
anyone can openly make a phone call about it or how the sun reflects off snow.
Once or twice a week I think of pelicans. We are not too far from the shore,
so pelicans are a reminder. They are in the south now, but I never really look
into it. For all I know, this could be a temporary thing. You should have
courage. Weekends terrify me with trips to the duck pond. But I suppose
it could be worse and ducks aren’t always a problem. What worries me is sugar,
salt, and vitamin C. Passing stores with an apple and take a bite with the walk
creates a good image for a photographer, it was just me in a black coat biting.
A complete set of lampshades, I think, would look good in the store window.
Keep the benches clean and open; I hear it can be difficult to admit age and I
would rather feed crumbs to pigeons, than have a duck steal an entire slice of bread.
Maybe that is the capitalist in me; maybe I don’t deserve a loaf. Men
on telephones, chefs, graffiti, vultures, scarves, bus stops, pillows,
vitamins…what does it all mean? People tell me not to think
about it, and it will make sense when I’m older, when violence is more
appropriate and the planet fluctuates according to mood. Why do the old
call the young naïve? Giving up on dreams is a sign of maturity,
or is that just how it looks to my young eyes? I know the charms of home,
the relationship it has to the world as a whole, and the rest may just be urban
theatrics. Your spellbinding wild face is better in real life, than in glossy
photographs. This could be the end, I might be wrong, but I have the right of way.
It’s always memories that push the signatures into the fingers holding
the pen. See the sun smudged behind the clouds? This is optimism and I’m not
holding back. I used to be this person, and everyone asks what happened?
Pushing the thread through the needle is just one way of doing things
in a world of open doors but I try not to think about walking in uninvited.
M. N. O’Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where his work was published in On Concept’s Edge and received the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. His work was most recently published in SOFTBLOW and Counterexample Poetics. He currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, constantly risking absurdity in a Ferlinghetti sentiment, playing old folk vinyl records and studying astrophysics and poetry. He feels awkward writing in the third person.