by Frederick Pollack
Some idiot blocking
the intersection makes us turn
to shake our heads with someone:
me in the left lane, he in the right;
he in his black Ford Fusion, me
in my rented black Ford Fusion (I like
to rent midsize, for some reason).
And each of us sees that strange thing:
someone who looks like us. Exactly.
Though his smile is more generous,
and he’s wearing a nicer coat. Seems older,
or perhaps, I don’t know, I look older.
Kept more of his hair, though it’s whiter?
The schmuck ahead of us moves, finally,
and my friend, with a little wave,
turns right. I continue
down Halstead, which I didn’t know
except as a name, fifty years ago
when I lived here, or whenever I last
visited my home town (his home).
It meant the ends of the earth, a slum.
Now, mile after mile
with drycleaners, WiFi, day-care centers,
everything for the kids, and the kids’ kids …
It’s strange how the South Side seems
to be changing places with the North.
I wonder: was he for any reason
up there today, in the, in my
old neighborhood? Liquor stores
and barred unpainted windows
where late the sweet birds sang. I shouldn’t
have gone; was warned.
But I’ve been driving all day long.
Perhaps he called on an old friend,
an artist living cheap among the poor.
No. He isn’t an intellectual.
The friend is a former accountant
for his old firm, retired when he did.
They talked about boats, the Sox, the kids,
knocked back one careful beer. And later
he stopped where I did, on Lincoln,
somehow missing the downpour
that kept me from a bookstore
that’s probably no longer there. He entered
the famous old Pharmacy, left with expensive soaps
and moisturizer … He’s always considerate.
She appreciates it.
Now he’s heading west somewhere,
I randomly east to the shadow
of Sears. He knows the ins and outs
of these streets. Grandchildren squeal
when his presence is promised. Has followed
for decades, while I was elsewhere, new life
in old bricks. But why does he park
so reluctantly, climb
so somberly those steps? Why is his coat
so dark? The rain returns. For whom those flowers?