Check with restaurant for photo credit/unable to find on internet
Lassos, lariats, braided voices coming, like lapping
Waves, forming one on top of the other, from the cave
corner space where they keep the Coke bottles.
Table, old men, restaurant coffee cup, quiet interrupted
By a story of someone who died while on vacation after
Having worked thirty years without fail.
Booth, ladies in pressed dresses and gloves, purses opened
To the tissues and the butter scotch candy in the sweetened
Wrappers that stick to fingertips.
Counter stools, lonely men mostly, no looking around, straight
Ahead glances, noting how many straws in the straw box, smiling
At the waitress as she picks up.
Register near the door, try to run without paying and a shotgun
crosses your thighs, you think I am kidding, just try, just try, old
lady did not survive the war to take your huff.
Everything in order, just the way it’s supposed to be, like ironed
Shirts starched and ready in the box, where no one cares that
You can’t rope like you used to back then.
The Outsider: Notes
A glance that flickers like an old spool of film
Missing its spindle’s track.
A silence measured on a spectrum that starts
At distrust and ends at maybe.
A vocabulary of one syllable responses keeping
Everything clear and distant.
A dress and accessories that create a wall not so
Much impenetrable but sort of.
A walk with slow steps that keeps people from
Catching up in reverse.
A head and body strut tight and coiled, squeezing
Out emotion as it slithers.
A heart unknowable as it does not know itself, an
Organ necessary for life like a liver.
A mind that sized it all up and decided that being
In was not worth the time.
Not the Nowhere Man the song was written about.
A stranger only a danger to himself.
By himself, for himself, through himself, around
Himself, alone himself.
Grand Inquisitor with his temptations to bear:
Should I turn stone to bread?
You can find him everywhere a cop is beatin’ up
A guy, where a hungry child cries.
Along the by ways where freedom is drying up
And dying like a parched arroyo.
I am not afraid, she said. One life is all I have and
I will live as I believe, today, tomorrow.
Longfellow understood that a man may seem cold
But may only be sad.
The outsider is a shadow without a body to claim,
Living on Jung Street near the dead end.
There are no initials to which he answers, being
Not of gender or race or color bound.
At the window, disappearing just as you catch
His glance and write your notes.
The saved receipts of sidewalk songs
Midnight or there abouts, smells of the
Day rolling up, evidencing the drunken
Dreams that create bubble rainbows
Along the cracked and crumbling side
Walks of the Lower East Side.
Meeting earlier that evening, at the
Party thrown by the institute that
Promised to eradicate social problems
If only we donated but what could two
Recent graduates give?
We gave what we could. We gave each
other each other and walked hand-in-
hand to the door leading to the park.
Not even out the door you began without
Prompt or consideration.
First, it was the show tunes. You knew
Them all. I yelled out a request and
You took the assist to the vocal bucket
With the confidence of Steph Curry
Shooting downtown threes.
But it was when we got to the park bench,
Where the two spires created the movie
Skyline that appeared like so much cliché,
That you started singing Leonard Cohn as
If he’d patched a hole in your heart.
Close eyed I listened as your pew songstress
Serenade created a cathedral of anxious memories
You had now changed into possible dreams. A
Few hours passed, friend-in-friend, promises
Made to never lose touch.
Others who hear me recount the night, invariably
Caution of Voltaire’s Pangloss’ sugary optimism,
Rear view mirror memories that embarrass not
Just the players but the true intimacy of a time
And place best left in the past.
To them reveries are hummed on sidewalk
Saunters where they, like city noises, disappear
Into memory, fading, dated receipts you keep
but for some reason can’t part with and only
you remember indelible reasons why.