The Sign at Window One
reads: THE CLOCK IS TICKING.
What brings my red Irish face
among the blackest of black faces, crêpe to crow,
applicants waiting in lines that snake to the street,
even the guards and low-level functionaries
one paycheck from the street themselves,
who move languidly from office to office,
or hunch, two or three at a time, bickering
over a task that might well be done by one;
among a caste of voices, Billie-Holiday-hoarse,
of bored kids sucking on empty starches;
among the missing teeth and big earrings of poverty
at a Brooklyn welfare office–sorry,“job center”–
in mudtracked midwinter?
I check the box that says “sex with men”as the reason
I was infected; the reason I am here to hear,
from one cubicle over, a voice that asks:
Any changes, my brother?
“The Sign at Window One” is from The Charge (Ausable Press, 2003).