Behind glass, the street seems immovable, but shift
the pane and its throb unsettles the dust from his books.
There are vignettes on open display, hanging on lines
with work shirts, skipping down sidewalks alongside
tots with scraped knees. Long ago, he’d given his TV
to the goodwill, tired of static, its dumbfounded glare.
He has his solitaire, a pipe, and well-thumbed classics.
The view competes, often, with Tolstoy and Hugo,
and he allows the distraction, smiles one afternoon
when he spots Esmeralda dancing on the corner, no
hunchback in sight, the trinkets on her wrist sending
sunlight his way. The garbage truck comes Tuesdays
carrying Odysseus who ignores the Lotus-Eaters, but
nods to Nymphs. Yesterday, at the Nine Muses Café,
he’d met Captain Ahab, wild eyed, bushy browed,
back from Afghanistan and now missing both legs.
There are epics told on stoops, novellas whisper
near bus stops. But there is one tome he is fearful
to read, a mystery that unleashes loneliness. Each
night before ten, someone plays over and over again,
Rachmaninoff’s Paganini, variation number eighteen.
The notes, the rhapsody, reminds him of browning
pages, the worn joker in his deck, her face that day
as he carelessly weaned them of chapters, just left,
and he is forced to remember the paradox between
a woman’s thighs, a strength that submits so softly,
each night before ten, he becomes both waif and thief,
each night before ten, he is confronted by his-story.