Invisible

Delivery trucks line Financial – that half-street stunted by train tracks
and Board of Trade barriers. Vehicle signage announces Document
Destruction, Evian, Ajax Security, Minute Maid. I walk swiftly
from condo to office, as pigeons scatter slowly at my feet, completely
assimilated, scavenging leftover Goldfish and Sun Chips.

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

The CEO decides to refocus the 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 Financial, 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 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, delivering the next wave
of office workers to the newsstand, the nail salon, the flower shop.

[revision of previous poem]

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.”

Dinner at Giocco

Why does it annoy me
that she resembles Joyce Carol Oates
her dark curls sucking the color
from her pale face? Are she and her
brown-coated companions discussing
literary theory; are they debating
the merits of philosopher X,
how his ideas on sex influenced
great novelist Y?

What is it about a restaurant,
full of couples and quartets and
the white noise of conversation,
a story at every table: the friend
in from out of town, the celebratory
drinks with colleagues, the birthday
dinner and first date nerves, tiny
vignettes of other lives,
so much more interesting
than one’s own.

And is some other woman
sitting at a corner table
watching me, wondering who
I am and what I do and who is my date
and what were we saying
when I reached across the table
and touched his hand.

Would she find it interesting
that we spoke of seafood and my ex,
of body language and his flat in London,
or in her imagination are we
dog walkers,
pastry chefs,
teachers of needlepoint to deaf-mute inmates,
members of an alien dining club
exploring the cuisine
of the Milky Way?

Riding toward the lake

I see them: a mermaid,
A centaur, a dragon,
A seal. Suddenly all
Shapes are mythical,
Twisting out of the steam
Like creatures being born.
Where are they going,
I wonder, as they dissolve
Into the achingly cold air.
Passing through our world
To another? In the summer,
Are they the clouds that
Children see? I spy a teddy
Bear, a train, a potato. In
The desert, are they the
Mirage of blue and green,
Leading travelers to their
Death? Do these creatures
Of smoke even know of
‘good’ and ‘evil’? Or are
They simply indifferent
Shapes of vapor, unable
To comprehend us, as we
Cannot fathom them…
Except in dreams, or on
An exercise bicycle on
A cold January morning.

g boutique

Shopping for lingerie surrounded
By black lace and pink camisoles,

I secretly wonder about my fellow
Customers. Are those girls planning

A bridal shower or primping for their
Boyfriends? What about the woman

Lingering over the body oils? And,
As if in a movie, a man rushes in

To buy a bustier for his girlfriend
But doesn’t know her size and the

Shopgirl tries to help him but her
Suggestions only result in more

Distress. Oh, what a confusing world
For men – Bikinis, shorts or thongs –

Bra sizes like strange codes
(B38: you sank my battleship) –

And endless shades of lavender.
A woman pays for the cab and

He is overcome with thanks
For the sexual revolution.