5 O’Clock Poem
Descending the gray nudge of Market Street
I am heavy in my shoes,
a little sack-bent.
The dryness in my throat
is familiar but not comfortable,
my body is familiar but not comfortable.
Most openings are too small to enter,
but upstream and tired, I fall in
achy stone of me exploding like a rose,
some slat of light, some pod of tenderness.
People look almost real
swaying toward the charcoal night into streetcars.
The train is always approaching always pulling out.
What I mean to say is we live in the illusion
of beginnings and endings.
Above ground the trucks are coming
in a flow of red-turning lights.
By a stream in a life that is not mine
a salmon thrusts the silver
glint of its body
up a shallow stream that is pushing it—
can you feel it pushing you?—
And what if it gave in
let the exhausted muscle of its being
ride the way-down current.
All these people how hungry they look
and not nearly as guilty as they feel
shuffling onto the silverlit train cars
they have been waiting for
has come to take them home.
“5 O’Clock Poem” is from How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009).