ANTWERP

It is seven in the morning
Antwerp arises slowing in winter
the small bar along seldom
used quays of Schelde
is almost empty, one old man
tottering on his stool
swaying to breath
head pressed on the counter.
Young couple, she brown haired
pale white skin against white
sweater, he long blond
woven into a ponytail
draped over the faded
denim jacket.
Her fingers
entwined in his, they stared
now, again sipping , she
Stella Artois, he Duvel.
He would paint,
when there was light
and when not, his fingers
would play across her belly
her breasts and mons
as they had in darkness
slowly receding, touching
canvas mind filling
with images cast in oils,
she would cast words
as ancient runes, telling
of times gone, to come,
and in night he would rise
into her, interlocked
sweat running across
his chest, pooling
in his navel.
She touched
his lips, sucked her finger
and put match
to cigarette, drawing
deeply of the morning
carried on river breezes.


First Appeared in Coffee and Chicory, Vol. 5, 1997.

WINTER, AGAIN

The snow began falling this morning
the dry, almost greasy snow that defies
the plows running up and down the streets,
too shallow for the salters to begin.
Cars slide to a stop, or nearly so,
at the intersection, and you know
it is merely a matter of time before two
will simultaneously, and there will be
a loud crunch of metal, gesticulating of hands,
He would stay and watch, as he does
auto racing, but the temperature
has breached single digits, the wind
has taken up winter’s challenge, and
he knows only a fool would
venture or stay out in this.

NOT CLOSE ENOUGH

The church is about half full,
which is to be kind, a quarter
of the pews are filled, but people
are spread widely apart to give
the family, to give the priests,
just to be on the safe side
to give God, the impression
of a fuller house, although
it being a Mass of Resurrection
on a Saturday morning, the more devout
are fairly certain it will not count
toward their weekly obligation.
The recessional hymn complete, the priests
greet the parishioners with a smile
that is equal parts joy and Surprise
and the pews return to their afternoon naps.

MASTER CRAFTSMAN

He waited patiently in the queue
until, after two and one half hours
he approached the battered metal counter.
The young, bored woman, chewing at her gum
asked the usual question, have you
looked hard for work this last week?
I stood in many lines, for hours on end
in my battered old shoes, that is
more work than you can imagine.
Each night I would soak my feet
for hours in the small sink
hoping the swelling would go down.
Each morning I would find another line
or two, if they moved quickly, but
at the end of each they would ask
the same question, what skills do you have
and I would tell them there are
few better than I at standing in lines,
and they would sheepishly smile
and thank me for my patience
and that is why, again this week,
I ask that you stamp my book
so I can stand in the other line
and wait patiently for my check
which I can take to the small bodega
waiting calmly in line to cash it
to buy what canned goods are on sale.
Then I will take my cans
and carefully line them up
on the kitchen counter, and marvel
at how patiently they stand in the queue.


First published in Pearl, Vol. 31, 2002