May 2, 2004

An Ordinary Afternoon in New Haven

Life moves by this stretch of Orange Street,
in all its forms,
with all its thoughts,
separate, isolate thoughts,
inspired by the same scene,
indifferent to the same scene.

I watch them go,
fast and slow,
lazy strolls,
and purposeful struts,
the rolling ass,
the stiff-necked spine;
nevertheless, all heads bent to the ground,
the same cracks in the pavement
moving eyes to spy trips
in rising embarrassments,
up between the legs.

Is it three with St. Mary's girls standing,
diminutive hips flung out,
cigarettes smoking and dangling,
waiting for butt-stupid young lovers
in jacked up Chevrolets,
pulling up with T-shirts
rolled over bulging machined muscles.

Is it three with St. Mary's parents,
in identical cars,
already backed round the block,
to head off male penetration
of Catholic sanctuaries,
the girls with whore paint and whore lips
at fifteen.

Passing by,
a whiff of the meat counter wafts through,
a hand slabbing steak on scales,
short fat Margaret,
-- Hello --
and the plop with which she drops
fragile fruit into the bag.

Someone limps as a hand gropes
in purse for keys--
a jingle of discovery
and out they come
ready for the door--
rehearsal of late night anxious returns.
Find the keys, get in the door,
before the ever-lurking imaginary attacker
becomes less imaginary:
A tall thin black youth without features,
only aggression forming
the shape of his shoulders and hips,
ready for action,
eyes darting right and left,
looking through the clothing,
through the body,
through fearful hidden anxiety,
finding there every evasive intention revealed,
revealed to be impotent
before the omniscient counter-moves of the violator.

The lingering night moods stay
through the sunny sweat of the day.
Orange Street, New Haven.
All the way up to 96 degrees this summer day
with thunder storms threatening.