|1. Poem, like mostof his ilk, was at least a mismatched
Plaid short of fancy when it came
To his digs. He had one of those
Basement apartments where
You could watch people’s feet
Go by through the windows
Up by the ceiling: dainty pumps,
Sturdy clogs, occasionally risqué
Sandals, all the usual clichés walking
In their odd mix of iambs, dactyls,
And occasionally anapests. Poem
Liked the world of ankles, neatly
Turned, it left him so free to imagine
The beauty beyond the streets
Of insidious intent, as if the world
Was reality TV, a runway of shapely tropes
With the camera doing its breathless
Back and forth—anxious off-stage
To the assured glamour on, and the clamor
Of all the eager eyes. Poem sat
In his overstuffed chair, the one he’d
Scored at the Goodwill, sipping a little
French press coffee as if he were at a café
Table watching with feigned nonchalance.
Poem was very patient.
2. Poem needed
a hobby, something to help pass
The time and express himself. Riding the El
He found himself watching the poem
Who wedged herself each morning
In the corner seat, swaying, leaning forward
And back, knitting with the car’s motion.
Poem watched the magenta and puce yarn
Crawl up from her lap, edge out along the needles
Like a boy cautiously shinnying out a thin
Branch, then hook into the tiny knots
That were becoming something. A sock? A ski
Mask for her special poem to wear
When he visited the bank and passed those notes
With the secret messages across the counter?
Poem didn’t know, but he wanted to sit
As she did in that special place, unaware
Of the passing stops and the unreadable
Narratives of all the poems hanging
On the straps and hunched into the plastic seats.
Maybe, Poem thought, he could learn to play
An instrument! Maybe an oaten flute!
Yes! thought Poem. And he’d find a sweetie
Named Corrina, and it would be May
And the sheep would be the Vienna
Boys Choir bleating in harmony to his flutey
Melodies, and there’d be no sheep shit
In the grass or gnats or mosquitoes in the golden
Sun as he and Corrina got their maying done.
It was Poem’s stop. He put away his knitting.
3. Poem needed a new
book. The one where he lived now
Was cheap enough, but really needed
A new dustcover, and the pages
Were dog-eared. He felt very old
Coming home each night
To an unfashionable anthology
As if he were an old painting stored
In the museum basement to make
Room for one of those high concept
Installations. Poem knew the neighborhood
Was fading. The books along his shelf
Sagged at the spines and there wasn’t even
Bus service. Poem knew he couldn’t
Afford to move into one of those
Swank self-help condos by the El stop,
But maybe, he thought, he might get lucky
And score a sublet in one of those newish
Creative non-fiction units. On HGTV
They always had lots of light, maybe
Because they were so true, and they
Were always very eco and up to date.
Poem thought, too, about a novel, maybe
An Alcott cottage or nice tidy Owen Wister
In an older neighborhood. Poem knew
He didn’t want a Henry James brownstone
And couldn’t afford one anyway.
Then, again, being out of the way
Had certain advantages. Maybe,
Poem thought, he should just redecorate—
Some nice chintz curtains, perhaps,
And a paisley throw for the couch. Poem
Was after all pretty settled in his ways.