Fourth Street

Miriam Sagan

A pastel-colored port—
Oakland like Pireas or Marseilles
Gigantic white cranes
Might have been placed to please the eye
Rather than lift tankers
4th Street—
The people of this city
Love their dogs, coffee, and each other
In that order.
Love in its variations,
Lovers of all nations
As if love were not dangerous but decorative.

In the bedside clutter
Of gods of the world
A Shiva, a Parvati, a Buddha
Fra Angelico angel, a beach stone
Two kachinas from Hopi
Old ones, flat-backed, faceless
That is—completely masked—without feature
On the oldest one;
The hands
Have fallen off
Protruding arms carved of cottonwood root.
It speaks, this mute
Insensate thing
This doll
It speaks with force—
Corn, water, sky
Anchored by mountains.

Teacups with a Japanese design
Woman beneath an umbrella
Handleless
Against the heat.
Time has a way
Of pooling, limpid water.
Long parasols from Thailand
Decorate this corner
Red or purple, with bright gold, a fringe
They blow in the soft sun of this temperate noon.
Colors behind my eyelids. Yellow and pink.
Now, a large bowl of Asian seafood soup
A kind of sea
Decorated in cilantro.

It is because we’ve lost a sense of home
That we’re at home here
Where the jasmine blooms
Where various lovers in sparse elegant rooms
Trade up and down.
Will one kiss overrule?
One set of lips
Be suddenly so moist
That they’ll eradicate the past,
The future too
In a blur of fulfilled desire?

Hot sauce on a table,
Lettuce in the soup.
Last night it wasn’t just a dream
But whistle of the train
That woke me as it spoke
Of someplace lonesome, inland, flat
Where children, even half-grown,
Are longing to get out.

 

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