the man who fell

among the market’s most dire distractions,
the corner musicians bleat, twang, and bellow
as they blow through town like dust from the cascades.
they are the gray noise for reaching shoppers
whose arms always crosshatch, entrapping me
in a web or a cat’s cradle. these hazards

often dazzle me, the numberless spectrum of transactions,
gazes traded, melons fondled, children excoriated; i imagine
our overhead shot to look like bubbles in a boiling beaker
with each way we go outward, to our own hithers, roil back
to retrieve forgotten fruit, to a co-worker’s greeting,
to avoid eye contact with the old lovers of new friends.
how could i possibly comprehend this madness?

saturday i saw the aftermath
of a man who fell. he wore wire-framed glasses,
an amber windbreaker, russet slacks, and skin that retreated
into the hollows of his pallor. a halo of watching
formed around him as he was helped upright by his wife
and a braver stranger. he met my eye to look away,
hoisted upon his cane as if it drew a curtain around him.

later i saw the man who fell making himself scarce
between booths as he buckled at the hips,
straining not to fold like a foal on new legs.
what could i have said if we had locked
into each other’s stare once more?
that his frailty scared me? that this fear
was not of dying, but of having to be brave?

i know my eyes don’t say so much. i know in that moment
that the moment will pass, the pressure will abate
as i walk past soap stands and henna vendors.
the air will clear around me, my world will quiet
as my body carries me home.

Ethan Milner is a writer in Oregon and a therapist at an adolescent day treatment school. His work has appeared in the journals ditch,decomP, Short, Fast, & Deadly, The Residential College Review, and Xylem.

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