Poetry

Queens Vision, 1983

Photo by Max Reif.
Photo by Max Reif.

Somewhere in the bowels of Queens with my crazy 2nd wife,
going to meet her grandpa. The insane traffic last night,
some kind of Puerto Rican parade, and her brother,
who’s recently found God, in the car with us shouting out the window,
“Jesus is Lord, baby!”

Today sunny and quiet, the regular rhythm of the New York streets:
bagel and pizza shops, pedestrians, trees, subway entrances and delis
that serve your coffee in those blue discus-thrower cups.
Parking, we walk up the stairs in an ordinary brown, brick building.
An old, thin man with glasses sits in an easy chair,
a devout Catholic, Cindy’s told me.

She goes to do some straightening.
For an hour he and I talk of the Yankees and St. Francis,
and how he worked in the shipyards
and went to church all his life.
He smiles, looking inward
with few regrets, then back at me.
The room seems brighter than it was.

Cindy returns; the three of us
talk some more. As we leave
a little later, I look around to see
if I can find the reason
I feel I’ve visited
a shrine.

It’s him, I realize.
He smiles at me again;
not “a sign”: Holiness
can be so ordinary.

Out on the street
we walk toward the car.
I turn around for one more look
at the building. Two trees in front
shed their red and golden leaves.
A couple strolls by on the sidewalk.

The building looks anything
but ordinary now.
A subtle glow suffuses it.
Silence seems to swallow
traffic noises.
Time itself has stopped
here on a New York street
to pay homage to
the aged man up there

whose body will fall before long
like the leaves on those trees.