Copyright © 2001 Richard Baumgart

On the way home

everything looks sad.
The girl in the phone booth,
blue and white in the light.
The man waiting for the bus,
hunting through the cold coins.
The youths streaming from
modeling school in costumes
and too much makeup.

The bus pulls three or four
faceless people out of the dark and into it.
There is a woman rolling up her mat
after "Jazzercize"—her breasts, sadly high.
That dim yellow room was once a school.
And that place with the grey blinds
and grey filing cabinets
in rows and rows sold furniture.

When I was a kid
and used to sled-ride in the dusk,
the lights would come on,
one and then more.
It was something to come home to
in the black. The blue snow glowed
and there was silence except
for the clop of my boots.

But now, this girl presses into
the boy who looks away.
Now, the ducks in the Chinese
restaurant stretch from their nooses
in the greasy window
and there are three blank
Seven-Elevens in two miles.
A woman pushes a gas nozzle
into her car, brown hair
soaking up the fumes,
her face, bleak cream,
her lips, black red.

The night is so cruel.
For everyone who moves
through it is not at home.
Everyone who is not at home
is looking for something.
The girl in the phone booth
is as lost as the people on the bus
who ride all over the city,
looking for the place to get off.
The bus never arrives for the man with the coins;
he waits until his fingers are small numb hammers.
The boy lover finally says the unforgivable.
The woman with the tank full of gas
drives two blocks to her walkup.
The high breasted lady stops for a magazine
in the green lit pharmacy.

There is light.
There is dark everywhere
light does not touch
and who is to say which is the refuge.
Who will say that light is a blessing after all.

J. C. Watson
Copyright © 2001

JCWatson's poems are published in Iowa Woman, Chexter H. Jones Anthology, Backwoods Home, Americas Review, Bellowing Ark, Santa Clara Review, and Crone's Nest. She works as a Behavioral Therapist with autistic children.

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