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On Brattle Street

ISSUE:  Spring 1999
It’s sunny, but fat flakes of snow
Are swirling in the air on Brattle Street
Outside the library window where he sits hoping
To answer, in the spare hour he has, a woman friend’s
Challenging remark that few men allow themselves to listen
To an inner voice of prophecy.
Fat flakes, as if the people on the sidewalk,
And the theater with its bright banners
And the stick-like trees are all within a paperweight
And even his doubts are a bubble world
Within the star-choked larger universe,
And peturbation is no more than the shaking
Of the little glass globe, the flakes already settling
Once again on the roofs of the houses.

How pathetic that he can’t remember when the gods in him
Were last heard from, when they last seized control of him.
Maybe he should look at himself laughing and talking, losing
Within the pleasant duties of daily sociability
To understand what his genes always had in mind for him,
Affable, as his grandfather was,
And round-bellied, now, like the Chinese god of prosperity?

Oh this life of obligation, of interdependence is so different
From all that he imagined when he first thought of himself
From the outside, in the third person, when he was about fifteen
And believed that nothing had meaning if it couldn’t be narrated.
Sometimes, when he is knotted in a knit tie, and seems least free,
At a meeting interrupted by a note and a messenger
And he signs something, E mails an answer, the phone rings,
And everything is happening at once, and nothing is worth
Or could even be put into an anecdote since it is passing too
And there is no inner voice at all, no gap between reflection
And speech. He hears himself saying his name into the phone,
And it feels like a continuation of his own birth scream.

But having observed that about himself, he wonders if his whole
Hasn’t been a cowardly deafness to the true song
That is filling Brattle Street beyond the library’s glass wall,
Not stirring the banners on the theater, nor dislodging
The plaster casts of snow from the arms of the trees,
But flooding the brains of some of the sidewalk-trudgers,
Who walk through a holy city with transparent walls made of
 wordless prayers,
Even within their snowflake bubble worlds.


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