The Last Wise Man on the Street

At the end of the line
Stands a man
With nine copies of Death in Venice,
Nine publishers
Nine lives

Spent on the road
Dodging rain
Soaked in leaves and plastic sheets
Away from a cop’s prying eye
Wearing a ready smile

Baked in the sixties.
On his face a beard
More Pound, less Eliot
He says he reads no poetry
But together we recite the lovesong of Prufrock from memory.

He does one line, I the next
A jugalbandhi across the oceans, just as
The sun goes down in mad mad Manhattan
Men meeting each other for the first
And perhaps the last time.

He reminds me (the long shadow of Eliot peering over his shoulder),
is etherised on a table.
While I joke, yes, people like us come and go
Like Michelangelo.

He waits for no peaches
Wears no trousers rolled
A pair of khaki shorts is all he’s got.
No ambition on his sleeve
Or hard work or rancour.

He offers the world, if we can take it.
There is ancient Egypt, today’s war of mass destruction
They jostle for attention.
A raindrop seeps between the leaves of
Robinson Jeffers

Before the trunks close for good. Close of day.
Lies in the service of truth. He cries prophet-like
At the glittering office buildings the next door.
His place is on the street.
They are so glib he says

Sometimes I believe their talk
More than I.
Everett of the New York street
Goes home. Finally Buddhist now, about the circle of life.

And yet and yet.
He carries a flame still to be born, of tomorrow.
A magi
Gift laden,
For a dollar and twenty.

Amlanjyoti Goswami