A Late Summer Day in New Haven
Today, when air is heavy, thick with over-ripened thoughts,
with the smell of sea lightly tingeing it with a salty taste of languor,
the apocalypse unfolds. As I walk the bustling streets of New Haven,
packed with sidewalk rug sales, with haunting notes from a blues harp,
with oblivious college students, cell-phoned into their deluded worlds,
the apocalypse seeps into the haze, some milky sidewalk spillage.
Three police officers stand facing a college building. Its new wall,
polished granite, glistens in the afternoon sun – a testament
to growth, hope, and pride. Two police cars, lights flashing, doors open,
insulate them from passersby. The concerned faces of the police,
no beacons of safety, glare at the wall. They stand legs apart,
arms crossed. A fourth officer, beside the wall, lectures the three.
He faces them; gesticulating like a professor, his right arm waves
in slow, lazy shapes against the wall, tracing lines of the graffiti message,
black, pristine, harsh, against the elite stone. The words claim:
“Money gives Yale balls.” I nod to myself, smile as I saunter past.
“The culprit was obviously left-handed,” the officer states. “Yes,”
I think, “That makes a difference to you.” The lettering is beautiful,
street hip, Chinese-like script, clearly marked with fuzzy edges –
the spray-can effect. The statement is a truth we know.
This is our world. Its strange afflatus, our true largesse.
Granite has been defaced. What is below the surface
has risen up into the light of a lazy afternoon in September.
The underbelly now exposed to the sky. This scar,
a defilement, a clandestine blow to polished power
of stone, against the academic world of words.
The apocalypse offers itself to us. On this wondrous day
a young black man rides a bicycle too small for him.
He peddles through the crowded sidewalk, weaves
around ivy-league co-eds who major in Pre-Medicine,
International Law, Art History, Russian, and Macro-Economics,
who prance down town with vacuous smiles:
their high-pitched voices toss a “No?,” a “Really?”
into cell-phones with a shine that gilds their angled faces.
They do not feel the coming fall. Seasons mean nothing.
The knees of the young black man stick out as he rides;
he nudges a preoccupied mother who trundles her kids
into a Hummer perfectly parked beside Yale’s British Museum.
The young black man, his head bandana wrapped tight,
has eyes wrapped tighter, eyes that glare straight ahead.
The apocalypse colors the irises. In the humidity,
the late Ancient Mariner sun, dulls his bling-bling
into copper. An odd stupor grips my heart.
This late summer, languid day: sweat beads my forehead,
trickles down my spine; the legs are slow; to walk
is cumbersome and awkward; it grinds my breath.
Yes, summer holds on. The day, a gift, stultifies my mind.
The footsteps of shoppers on the concrete impend
the unknown. The apocalypse wafts in the smell
of fresh croissants, stares out from the titles of books
that line bookstore windows, cascades with the coffee
that streams from the espresso machine in Starbuck’s.
Customers, intent to read the newspaper, take notes,
have a conversation, see nothing much outside themselves.
This day is shirtsleeves, shorts, and sandals, a day
to imagine lying on the beach while not at the beach.
The trees are turning, ever so slowly: right now
a maple leaf falls – a scorched hand, dry, reddish brown –
before me. What is left: car keys, the eerie sound
of the door alarm, the quiet fright of a trivial life,
a portent that will blossom in vivid color at sunset.