Walking Home as Morning Wakes

Today is street cleaning day.
One parking enforcement officer
tends the dank, quiet streets.
He too is quiet, introspective,
thinking of the lonely train whistle
on the periphery of his hearing;
the last freight to leave town
this morning as it melds with
a far-off siren.

A crane starts up
carrying lumber
and hard-hatted stick figures
to tight-rope destinations.
They cast diagonal shadows
across an old couple
on a balcony, who sip breakfast
brandy from narrow glasses
and speak Russian mixed with English
only they understand.
The dull glint of 50-year-old
wedding bands punctuates
their conversation, his slippers
keep time to an old-country
cadence only he can hear.

She leaves the building
by way of the stairs, the door
latches behind her.
In her small purse: a tube
of gloss, a house key, a five
for ginger ale at the gas station
to settle her stomach
and rinse the taste of him
from her mouth.  She wears
last night’s heels.  Her panties
tossed in his wastebasket
the only phone number left behind.
She taps an absent-minded melody
as she waits for the light.  Thank
goodness she’s close to home.
It’s anyone’s guess, just one more day
to bury her face in her hands and move on.

Tobi Cogswell