Bio Note: Do you call people who are transient "neighbors"? I think so. Years ago, I lived in a drab apartment and stayed out as much as possible. I moved often. These poems are about people I probably talked and had coffee or tea with more often than any "fixed" neighbor.
I do not know where the flash comes from that ignites my sleep into terror. My wife does not see it, but the dog wakes and the raccoons stop scuffling on the deck. Once I thought it was the acrylic panel on my luggage reflecting the nose light of an airliner about to crash. Once I thought it was a beacon calling me to read Hafiz on indulging joy when knowing God surprises us by awkward revelations when we least expect them. But I know the light is the same reflected glare from glass in front of my former neighbor Mary as she trolled the Castro for meth, a bus-station window she stood behind pressed against before headlights’ glare took her image from my sight, and now, past midnight, the width of glass, of memory, between us, brings it back.
Why can’t an angel be muscular, a knot in a taut rope hauling our boat of miseries? Why not a baritone that heralds hope by misdirection and huffs of innuendo? Why not the man next to me, the long-bearded block with thick nose and harsh hands wiping his mouth with his sleeve? Yellow-vested men like wasps prohibit sidewalk entry with their buzzing, busting pavement, smothering soil with sand. The mixer churns to pour lumpy batter to form the walk now but frame and rock and purple plumb. What’s broken’s fixed and smoothed right over, shards and shatters leveled, linked. The angel who knows these weeds that squeeze between the pores of pavement, lost in walks with head bent down, has one thing less to look forward to through the grid view of his shopping cart. He resembles a lived-in couch, dilapidated, damaged, a throw thrown over to hide stains, sag, the history of wear and fear. He cuts snowflakes with an artist’s intricacy, the way women tat doilies, and gives them away. Cursed by the sun, everything melts, he says, like my thoughts, he says, like my friends, he says, like my family, he says, like my snowflakes, he says. I have lost thousands.
©2020 Jeff Burt
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