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Wednesday evening I step outside.
The glass doors shut evenly behind me,
re-enclosing the twelve stories:
the offices stacked like children's blocks;
the bank of elevators, each in its shaft;
the elevator doors; the guard crossing
his legs to read yesterday's sports page;
the guard's brown socks‹all of that behind me‹
tap-tap of typewriter, stapler's bite‹
all of that behind me
and I step out.
Beneath my foot, beneath
the thin sole of my pump, the bricks
are faster than thieves, I stand upon them,
feel nothing of the underlying sand,
the dirt beneath the sand. I lift my head
and breathe and stand here unable to descend
the nine steps to the sidewalk, unable
to walk to the corner, turn the corner,
walk and walk, through intersections,
past shops just closing up, to the bus stop,
board the bus. I weaken to imagine it,
my dark apartment, the vegetables I'll chop,
the effort it takes to fasten a skirt
to a hanger.
Across the street in the park,
in the blue shadows of late afternoon,
the old men practice putting, the white
balls gleam, as in memory objects gleam,
softballs tossed across long afternoons
where children play catch until dark,
until nothing gleams but streetlamps
and porch lights. Like children who play
the same game over and over and never tire,
never want to come in and wash up,
the old men practice putting.
I step out, I lift my head,
all of childhood behind me. Last sunlight
tangles the high branches of trees,
gilds the hills, and nothing,
nothing is still. High overhead,
high above the tallest building,
the most spacious office, where a woman's
heels might sink into plush pile,
a streamer of swallows floats past,
a thousand, thousand swallows, flocking,
feeding, a windy block of swallows
playing follow the leader and crack the whip,
so many birds that every pedestrian stands
transfixed and a photographer tries to fix
the image on film but everything continues
to move‹stars in orbit, pumping hearts,
I take one step.
The bricks hum under my feet.
I take one step and I am moving into it,
the world as it always is, mosaic of color
and sound, scraps of paper, traffic's growl,
perfume, gasoline, fresh cut grass, simmering tar.
This poem appeared in FIVE FINGERS REVIEW.
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