Walking to work in early March

Back side of my condo building,
step carefully around muddy snow
and the frozen evidence of small dogs.

Descend into the subway to shortcut
the busy street, past the Jamaican vendor
and his posters of Bob Marley,
Martin Luther King, his incense and
island music.

Emerge from the ground under
an announcement for nonstop flights
to San Francisco – last week it was
Tucson, Denver before that.

Delivery trucks line south LaSalle –
that half-street stunted by train
tracks and Board of Trade barriers –
vehicle signage declaring Document
Destruction, Evian, Ajax Security,
Minute Maid.

Pigeons scatter oh so slowly at my feet,
urban birds, bold and completely
assimilated, scavenging leftover
Goldfish and Sun Chips.

Men push dollies laden with soda
to the back doors of sandwich shops
or up loading dock ramps, bound for
vending machines and refrigerated cases
where they will sit next to the bottled
water and cups of sliced fruit.

Invisible jobs that depend on my job
(mine only slightly less invisible),
the professional services staffer,
the information age worker, pushing
paper while the men outside push carts
to newsstands or nail salons or flower shops.

Who would buy their pedicures and roses,
if not for the hundreds of office workers,
logging on, logging off, scurrying with
paper  cups from cubicle to copy machine
with great purpose, or great in the minds
of someone – CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO?
Is there a man or woman among them who
eschews their special letters in favor of
“fellow human being”?

A CEO decides to “refocus our firm on first
principles,” which results in the obsolescence
of an entire division, which empties a floor or two
of a Louis Sullivan building, which means
fewer workers buying coffee and bagels and yogurt,
which bankrupts the old man in the lobby,
which means one less delivery truck on LaSalle,
which means Carlos must take a second shift
to make up the lost wages, which is why he stumbles
from lack of sleep and spills soda cans
on the sidewalk before me.

I am implicated. I am complicit. I am
sure of this. But I walk around the cans.
My boots crunch on the salty streets, my face
aches, fingers are numb, nose runs.
A train curves shakily round its elevated
corner, a bright orange ad on its metal body
commanding me to “Stop Whining.”

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