I wrote this in November 2014, while living in Louisville, Colorado. You can tell I’m a fiction writer; in this poem, I mostly observe other people. Hope you enjoy!
Late Autumn Sonnets
The drug dealer in my apartment complex
grows a beard. It’s November, after all,
and all day he stands outside, staring
at his phone, with an occasional journey
across the street carrying a brown paper bag.
He is from Russia, maybe Siberia,
his ancestors long accustomed to cold winters
and selling underneath the government’s nose.
Someday, in another city, walking to work,
I will see him, and wonder, all day, who he is.
By evening, when I am through thinking,
the memory will come, unannounced—
his posture, leaning against a car, and
above him that impossibly blue Colorado sky.
The wife of the young man who runs the flea market
visits her husband across the checkout counter.
When he isn’t lifting TV stands or turntables,
they go to the grocery store together.
By the way they intentionally bump
into each another, walking across the parking lot,
I can tell they are happy.
Tomorrow, work and wind will continue,
they might think, but tonight, I will
cook, eat, and sleep with my love.
And most, excluding artists and criminals,
can’t imagine an evening better than that.
The woman at the library desk is over seventy.
Her hair is not gray, but her memory falters.
Like the lady in A Long Day’s Journey, she’s at the age
where the past seems the present and the future.
Coworkers may whisper that she might be sacked,
and patrons may wonder at her lack of affability,
and perhaps at home she talks a lot,
but at work she plods on. She has bills,
like anyone, and who knows how long she’ll live.
Toward me, who reserves a room every Wednesday,
she blankly stares. “How can I help you?” she asks.
And, “What is your name, dear?” I give her my card.
She gives me a key and goes back to a catalog,
her mouth slightly twitching above her red sweater.
On the park bench, three children sit.
Two girls on one side of a nanny,
a boy on the other. They are triplets,
born by lovemaking and fertility drugs.
Their questions place them around age four.
When two older children abandon
the tree-high plastic slide, the triplets jump
off the bench and charge. They’re lucky
to live near such a lavish playground;
they’re lucky their parents can afford
childcare. When will they realize the blessings
of their birth? Depending on their temperaments,
it could be never. According to the odds,
maybe one will notice; maybe one out of three.
A middle-aged barista, with hair that poufs out
like her knee-length skirt, yells yippee!
after every order for a drink with whip-cream.
When not at work, she paints, in colorful,
overlapping strokes that lack discernable shapes.
Is art her hobby or her other, better life?
I type, while she chats with customers
who tip according to their own needs.
Outside, under a bench, a dog waits for his owner,
and a young woman loads a city bus, holding her bike.
A dishwasher stubs out a cigarette,
then ducks into a diner on Main Street
of this town in the center of this country
that I’m only now beginning to know well.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to read more recent poems, this summer I wrote a couple about my neighbor who died from COVID, and the author Erin Pringle just posted them on her website. Click here and scroll down a couple posts to read them.
Next time, I’ll post a short story.