On the Way to WorkRichard Soberpaintings

Somewhere Along the Line I Must Have Been In New York in the Autumn

Once I knew 4,000 languages.
Now, I barely speak one.
The vagrant on the corner with a sign
is a monk down on his luck.
We are living words of an elaborate refusal.
There is no "we" here, only a moving collection
of rumors. A coalition of ghosts' voices
echoing in our chests, the hallway tiled
with the intimidated voices of the almost-vanquished.

What woods remained in our neighborhood
we used to play in, cowboys and Indians exchanging fire
between popsicles and ice cream cones. You could hide
for hours waiting for the enemy to attack, but they never came.
The leaves stood still, the hot buzz of the air
hovered over every stone, everyone disappeared.
When you try to piece together your life
sometimes all that remains is a fifteen-year-old boy
on a boulder drunk with fear he couldn't speak.

Somewhere along the line I must have been
in New York in the autumn, walking on Second Avenue
with the huddled masses learning what a picturesque trap
life could be. I only wanted a cup of coffee
in a steamy coffee shop to shake the soreness
off my shoes, to go to sleep in the temement bedroom
with the woman who stilled my heart. I must have kicked
some leaves on Fifth Avenue, eaten lentil soup
at the Odessa, slept in Grace Hartigan's rent-contolled
apartment, snorted cocaine in the bathroom at St. Mark's Church.
Somewhere along the line I must have left New York through a tunnel,
never returning to the same world again.

RS 2013