Writing Curbs in the Face of Street Sweepers

22 Apr 2014

Washington, D.C. 1992


framed permit in parkade office window:
"...CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY . . . permission
to use the basement floor for the following purpose:
Parking Establishment - Garage (Not sexually oriented)."

ATTENDANT: (laughing) There's no sex down there.
ME: You mean there's sex upstairs?
ATTENDANT: There's no sex in this garage.
ME: You mean, other garages...
ATTENDANT: Hey, you never know...


...for piercing through exhaust,
for observing the jaundiced commuter
and those full with bile.
For anyone, they aren't removed.
They are manlihood refusing castration.
They're glowing sulfur ore protected from extraction,
a few square inches of plastic lens under federal indemnity,
desired by Saffronite Indians, nations using mustard-gas,
owners of African banana plantations. The Baltics,
I hear, are after me to find amber. Certain bees won't leave
me alone. I dream marigolds come alive to claim back their color,
and I've been labeled a thief among alder, foxtail, and gentian.
...so I'm careful these days. Sometimes, on lawn chairs,
or staring quietly at the buttery pool waters of a garden apartment complex -
it takes only the smallest thing: a bee, a dandelion beginning to move,


Temporal distance is no longer necessary.
Aesthetic distance for proper description
of a crow on I St. northwest
is not necessary.
Ordinarily, unusual birds are seen,
thought about, mused over,
and finally immortalized.
Unless, of course, the bird's already certainly immortal.
Moments ago, the sheen of black feathers,
descending, glared - a bird out of place,
a stately bird with musculature akin to
the peregrine falcon.
An eagle snatching a small sheep, the bird defiantly
and victoriously claimed a sizable chunk of yellow popcorn,
raised it with a fierce beak above its head as if to taunt
and curse all pigeons. Meanwhile, an observer is frantic
for a pen, each second forgetting lines, details - in ten minutes,
several hundred lines of fresh poetry.
That bird was poetry.
It had turned its eye towards the traffic light, the observer remembers,
and anticipated cars. When I have no pen, the observer observes,
I see poems coming at me like birds,
so close I discern feathers, but later only recall wings.


Dear Diary,
Of all places, it happened to me in there!
The hypnotists blurry yellowing fingernails coming into focus, and saying
Wake up! And I find myself alone and staring blankly over a cheeseburger. Of all
the monotony in life, I had been boothed, had become one of many who are
' successively boothed. A great factory I discovered- where, like Roy Roger's
napkins on convertibles'dashboards, anyone can be swept into the wind and
gravitational pull of a mind-anesthetizing fast food restaurant.
I woke up, and saw everyone else who was alone staring, as I had, blankly
over cheeseburgers. A whole country, I thought, at any one time ... there must be
thousands or millions, numbed - but more importantly, far below many dead
layers of skin, under neckties and glazed eyes, below the starched collars and just
beside the stomach - these people are sad.
Realizing this, I rushed out .


(another parking lot, 90 degrees Fahrenheit )

The driver is sweating and nears the small attendant booth.

ATTENDANT: (coolly) Seventy-five.
DRIVER: You got air conditioning in there?
ATTENDANT: (slowly smiling) Yeah, man.

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