Wresting an alphabet

                                                                                         For Rachel

“Thou shalt not sigh, nor hold thy stumps to heaven,
Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign,
But I of these will wrest an alphabet
And by still practice learn to know thy meaning.”
-- William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, 3.2

Today I read the street
Like an alphabet.

I heard sighs
Almost a chorus
And yes, in a way,
People were holding their stumps
To heaven.
There were winks and nods
And there were many signs.

What I read was:

Everyone was sick
With loneliness.
Everyone disguised as one another,
Flinching in the anticipation of pain.

And still, this agreement to love.

I could tell who finally cleaned the bathroom. 
I knew who was about to confess to an old lie
And who was dreaming up another.

I could read last night’s love-making in people’s eyes.
I saw a man secretly smell his finger.

I knew who would cry
Reading tonight’s newspaper
And tell no one

The dream of winning the lottery
And purchasing happiness
Was powerful among us.

In a girl’s face
I saw the president who
One day
Will remove my dignity
Like an appendix.

I overheard
A teenager reasoning with his pimples
A man thinking in Swahili
A teacher rehearsing his resignation.

And still, this agreement to love.

I invited everyone to my house
For a good laugh.
I walked my lobster in the park
I gave away my 15 minutes of fame.

I jumped out of my skin and into your arms.

                              -- Panama, 3 April 2005

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