O N E
On a nine month sabbatical
from a mid-west party school
Professor Martel began his research
in an apartment
over a snack shop
near a library in a big city.
Intermittent and distant train wheels
replaced crickets. Whispers
discussing anything but class whispered
only in memory.
Constant and close traffic sounds – engines,
tires on pavement,
horns, doors, drivers – greeted
each dawn, dusk
and all the forty minute periods between.
From eight to midnight
snack-shop conversation – talk and orders –
rose through Professor Martel’s three room apartment.
rose, too: Eggs, sausage, bacon,
toast, coffee, burgers, fries, meat loaf,
potatoes and more coffee,
always more coffee. From his bedroom
window Professor Martel
could see the library. And all
windows looked out at old factories
partitioned into stores
and restaurants and office co-ops
and condos and health clubs.
Electricity for lights
and a library card for books,
a mechanical pencil
for writing in his spiral-bound –
Professor Martel settled like a seed
onto damp, warm ground.
It occurred to me without prompting,
forethought or desire
the first time I closed my new apartment’s door.
I stood alone
listening to second-hand snack-shop sounds,
looking at bare bulbs
in dangling fixtures, smelling bug spray
and mildew, tasting spit
that last tasted home grown,
farm fresh and country prepared dinner,
hands cold with sweat closing on warm air,
stomach tight and turning,
and everything rising up at me,
into me and out of me,
leaving me balancing
like a cat on a branch of a tree
during an earthquake – a sort of
embracing safety, embraced
by an even more loving,
thoughtful and considerate fear.
Fear of everything.
And a certain amount of bravery
there, in my new home,
because then my thoughts turned to my old work.