A woken woman’s walking up the street
too early on a winter working day.
She’s hauled along by eager canine feet,
as ever up for exercise-is-play.
The woman carries coffee in a cup
that keeps it warm and won’t allow a spill.
She sips the brew intending to wake up,
in pauses as she climbs the gentle hill.
And then she arcs the tennis ball away,
beholds the flash of bounding muscled mass,
and marvels at the sparkle in the spray,
as dashing dewdrops splash above the grass.
Returning home, while yet the woman yawns,
her dog is grazing water from the lawns.
They must have once supported massive weight,
but now they rust a ribcage in the air:
the 17 old I-beams twisting straight
up to a road no longer hanging there.
Like dominos they stand – a rusting line
no finger topples – while the engines eat
among them, rooting-ready by design
to bite the steel that once upheld concrete.
As if a local custom set them so,
they might denote a message to the sky
that priests of industry have placed to show
the height of commerce, or to amplify
their mark, except that demolition’s planned,
and Naked Lady stalks retake the land.
Today I saw a cyclist in a suit,
and yesterday I heard three college kids
discussing dicks and brooking no dispute:
dimension matters. Decency forbids
me naming names, but just last week I caught
a glimpse of him and her in full embrace
who shouldn’t be together, and I thought
to stay unnoticed and avert my face.
I live where people walk. I often ride
the rapid transit railway, ferry, bus.
It seems my day won’t start until I’ve spied
on sixteen strangers, heard two couples fuss.
I’m caught by clothes or cadence, turned by phrase:
This month I’ll have the luxury of black
and white, instead of blurring tones in gray.
I’ve too much on my plate – a daunting stack
of jobs – but there’s a path as clear as day:
I have to move a mountain, pail by pail,
and I can meet the challenge, I opine,
by focusing minutely. I’ll prevail,
provided I just allocate the time.
Amid that discipline a gap appeared.
I raced to catch the bus at scheduled speed,
and reached the stop too soon. At rest in shade
upon a public bench, the public neared:
a beagle wagged her tail; a poodle peed;
behind the bench a barefoot child played.
My son proposed a walk the other day,
sufficiently important that he chose
it over all his games. He knew the way
without the map he made, for I suppose
a place this special isn’t soon forgot.
We took a path unknown to me before,
on quiet trails, and we encountered not
another person, as we noted more
bay laurel leaves and rounded stones and trees
than we could count. We found his waterfall
and watched a valley fan to width, a frieze
of foliage upon its eastern wall.
I can’t compress what Danny made me see,
and I will keep it for eternity.
A pilgrim stopped me on my way to work
and asked a question mumbled in his beard.
Three times he spoke and twice his words were murk,
till finally my comprehension cleared.
His “P’otion?” was a traveler’s request
for confirmation that his aim was straight,
to walk ambitious miles toward the west
and meet the ocean at the Golden Gate.
How could I dream, when I awoke today,
that chancy fortune would bestow on me
this gift of wayward humor? On my way
to ride a train, with little energy,
I met surprise that would have been unknown
if I’d been dull enough to stay at home.
A clumsy brother at MacArthur woke
too late to exit well – he forced the door
with grunt and shove, as needlessly he spoke
to no one, asking did the seat or floor
retain possessions none of us could see.
Conspicuous in flabbiness and gross,
an oaf of vehemence, he seemed to be
pure attitude: obnoxious and morose.
He’d sprawled across the seats, designer shoes
the size of gallon jugs athwart on brown
upholstery, his tree trunk thighs apart,
his chin in folds upon his chest. “Excuse
me” you won’t hear from him – he’ll stare you down
with insolence, confusion in his heart.