We forget, anyway, to be the breathless of a Saturday
afternoon, and the dust motes, and the honey of light.
Some days everything else is shades of gold, and I am tired,
tired. Forget what it means to be alive: the spring of a street
market, someone strumming guitar on the corner, cold brick,
cherry blossoms that burst like my uncle’s heart — he tried
to breathe too much. Laugh too hard.
We dream pale, wake in the state we slept in, the rumpled
bedsheets, the tangled hair, dirty fingernails. Forget how
to feel in the drowning of streetlamps, the applause
of a rainstorm on a tin roof, the sharp glitter
of sunrise. No one mixes flour in our broken glass. We
won’t fall in a flutter of confetti, champagne at three PM
on an August afternoon, hot breath, open eyes. Gutted
fish in Chinatown. Yesterday the sky turned yellow. We
looked — the pale specks of people on the street wrapped
in coats and chapped cheeks, the broken flare of the neon sign
on an empty restaurant across the street — didn’t see.
I was trying to find a still from the movie Sideways to post here but then I saw this and …well, Alexander Payne is on tomorrow and this cat is sideways.
The weed and algae are floating like a bed,
and the bloodless gulls—
whose breaths would stink of all of us
if we could kiss them on the beaks—
are gnawing on the dead."
I always take the night shift, the one from 1 AM
to 5. Sink into the back alleys.
These are the hours when people, staggering drunk,
stumble in droves from the bars. I always take them.
They carry with them the murk of liquor and sadness and
slump in the car in crumpled clothes — wrinkled suits and loose ties,
stained sweatshirts. When I am unlucky they are the cursing ones,
or the vomiting ones, or the ones whose words
are so slurred I cannot hear the address.
They don’t tip. They don’t always pay.
They tell stories. Always I take them in.
1 AM to 5 AM, driving, there are moments
of white silence, blank and humming out of the darkness.
The swish of the road like a paintbrush. And these people,
gripped in something thick that I can no longer see.
I take them in, take them home, return for the next
and the next and the next and the next.
These people who could have been me.