graffiti scars rocks-
her hands clasp a bulging belly
a baby waits,
I want to show her a path
without spray paint
I Wonder How Many People in This City from “The Spice-Box of Earth” by Leonard Cohen
I wonder how many people in this city
Live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when i look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
Looking back at me
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.
dry skin cracked lips
– I watch you peel away
Her voice, a gentle breeze
softly turns my ears.
Her eyes, dark waters,
submerge her hard earned wisdom.
A newsprint roll is tucked under an armpit.
Primitive figures on colorful cards she is selling,
dance behind dirty plastic.
She brushes stray hairs from her face.
I smile across our class, our heritage, our histories.
We are two feet apart, miles away from contact.
She lowers her eyes. I squirm in my casual trappings.
I offer money to purchase her cards. I talk too fast,
smile too broad. My rabbit-hopping heart cannot
keep up to my whirling dervish mind. The heavy air is
difficult to breathe.
She chants gratitude, over and over, head bowed.
I tell her, “It is nothing, really, no problem at all.”
I leave, my center hollow,
nothing to redeem me,
nothing at all.
Her zombie steps shuffle along streets and alleys,
hair knotted and matted in unintended dreadlocks.
The cracked husk of her tarnished veneer reflects,
momentarily, in a boutique window and catches her eye.
Startled, she stares.
She glimpses a forgotten piece of her former self
beyond the plate glass. Flickers of another life
glint like sunshine on the glazed surface. Her
eyes close against the brightness.
A businessman in a navy suit, talking on his phone,
bumps her out of her reverie. He hurries on
without a glance, like stepping over dog shit.
a hermit crab sliding into the safety of her shell,
disappears into her invisible life, slinking
along the streets.