Friday, October 22, 2010

Regarding Location

He had returned from Soweto
and now stood there
wearing a white shirt and khaki pants,
his hair bleached by the sun, his tan
more of the golfer
than borderless physician.

We talked on the balcony
15 flights up, caged in the safe
elegance of verdigris iron. Some birds
were circling a street lamp.

Half listening, I was lost
in him and a glass of wine.
So when he spoke
of a girl soaking clothes
in rusted tin, scrubbing them
against a blue shutter torn
from its hinge-- I assumed
this was typical.

He glanced at a falcon
perched on the overhang
and mentioned how it seemed
out of place, misbegotten
in a large city that lacked
empathy for the wild.

His hand pointed
to the slate-blue shimmer
of plumes; and then his mind
retreated to the shutter,
how the sun electrified the paint
and made the homeless shadow
seem like a fisher-girl
swept in by a cruel
yet mythical tide.

Curious, I asked
whether she was from
the west or east side
of the African city.

He shook his head
and said lower Manhattan.
The girl , he explained,
was an Iraq War vet
living on the street, her anglo face
mottled with tears, some acne.

The sun blinked
into a dimmer light,
and as if the peregrine
understood; she cast her gothic frown
on that corner of my terrace.
We sipped our Chablis
and shuddered.
Note -- The painting is called, "Sentinelle", by French artist, Marie-France Riviere and can be seen with more of her lovely, evocative work at this online gallery --

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