It was the first time in San Francisco,
the time I saw a junkie step off the curb
in front of an oncoming car.
I was in a hurry, too; you were waiting
for me (or I thought you were)
and I didn’t want to be late.
When I arrived, though, you were still
inside, behind the metal detector
and a wall of security guards with guns.
I stayed outside in the courtyard,
sitting on the stone steps of the church,
and when you finally emerged I was
on the phone with my daughter’s
French teacher, who had dialed my
cell number and wanted to talk about cheating
while I sat so many miles away, on the stone steps
of a church in San Francisco, waiting for you.
The noise of the traffic was enormous,
drowning out the teacher’s accented English
and your approaching footsteps
and the sharp brake of the taxi driver
on his way down the hill
(the scene still replaying in my mind)
as the junkie, at the last second,
broke out of his dream state
with my hand on the back of his sleeve
and stepped back onto the curb.
Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and two chapbooks. Her third chapbook, In the Chair Museum, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press in 2013. Browning’s fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have previously appeared in a variety of publications including Queen’s Quarterly, 42opus, Blood Orange Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Heron Tree, The Literary Bohemian, and Corium, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, and in several anthologies. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Her personal website is located at http://www.leahbrowning.com.