Empty Avenues

I bring a book of poems down to Riverside Drive. Find a bench in the shade, green paint peeling from its slats. Mud, dried leaves and narrow sticks spread in continents across the cracked pavement beneath my feet. A fly crawls across the ledge, where a pigeon spins in a circle, burrowing its beak into its tail feathers. Below us the traffic song of the West Side Highway. A boy walks by clutching a skateboard, knows I’m watching him, his eyes flitting between nervousness and determination, a sleeve of ink stretching up his arm. Behind me a man sits in a parked car mopping his chest with a t-shirt, passenger door open, Al Green’s voice carrying to me beneath the trees’ canopy.

Not yet settled I study new friends for cracks, find that when stirring jasmine rice in the pot that I remember streets: Lyndale Avenue from our second-floor window – October in Minneapolis – cars coughing up leaves in their wake. The empty road near the Sarasota airport, night, languid warmth, driving past the dying motels, pool chairs with their arms facing the road. In San Francisco the wide avenues near Saint Ignatius, the single night I drove out to the second-run theater near the ocean, ate popcorn alone, drove back through the dark, the fog, that single night caught in my head, a memory that crowds out others till it becomes something I used to do.

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