For a while I used to write story poems…trying to capture a combination of things I’d seen, been through, dreamed about in one city or another, with some mix of verse and prose.
DOWN THIS STREET
She gave every impression
she’d been dragged around the block.
A few times. Undoubtedly, a lot of wounds licked.
Like a can kicked out of anger or boredom. Or sheer malice. A few times.
The old woman approached slowly
and offered me some free advice
out of the blue.
“Learn the easy way, as often as you can,”
she rasped, coughing from somewhere
deep inside. Wincing. Winding down. And winding up again.
“Look at the pictures. Stand back and take it all in.”
A pregnant, dizzy pause. “Pay heed to them who knows.
And no need to be the first one who jumps.”
She looked up from under her hat, maybe feeling like I needed convincing,
a grimy, arthritic finger pointing in my direction.
Tenderly somehow, not like casting a curse.
“You’ll end up less damaged goods. You’ll still be standing tall.
You’ll get invited to the Big Dance.” And she did what was to be a la-de-da princess pose,
but all rough around the edges.
“You’ll live it up there,
and have it in you to last, to go on and on,
and finish in style.” And she clapped her hands once and tried to grin.
“Not like me.”
I nodded my appreciation
as a sign that I got it. Watching her move on back down
the alley, into her shadow world. Ignoring the cold hazards lurking there.
Her afterthought trailing off,
“Them hard knocks are vastly overrated.”
And just like that she was gone. I couldn’t help but sigh wistfully
at how these human maps unfold,
and wish she’d only crossed my path
some long, very rocky years ago.
Renton, Washington – 1.23.19