Behind glass, the street is immovable,
but shift a pane and its throb unsettles dust
from books. There are vignettes
on open display, hanging on lines beside
work shirts, skipping down sidewalks
alongside tots with bruised 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. He allows the distractions, smiles
one afternoon at Esmeralda dancing
on the corner, no hunchback in sight,
her bangles sent sunlight his way.
The garbage truck comes Tuesdays,
carrying Odysseus who ignores Lotus-Eaters,
but nods to Nymphs. Yesterday,
at the Nine Muses Café,
he’d met Captain Ahab, wild eyed,
back from Afghanistan, 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 so soft,
each night before ten, he becomes
waif and thief, each night before ten,
he is confronted by his-story.