Chance Encounter

“Grun-tu-molani” I mutter to the bearded shadow
in the Salt House, his dog-eared copy of Bellow’s
Henderson the Rain King ostentatiously placed
next to his triple hop, grapefruit-infused, IPA import.

Curious now, his eyes intent upon me, I nod at the book,
“grun-tu-molani … I want to live … the Arnewi and the frogs”.
Drawing a blank, he picks up the book, gazes at the cover, 
as though in search of a clue, before sliding it across to me. 

And I am there then, in that cold-water flat on Hudson Street 
where the drunks hide from the weather on the staircase. 
Feverish in Amiens, Chartres, Vézelay, Père Lachaise,
I feel the heat of the dancing flames in the African desert.

Back on the sober street again,
I am startled by the white brightness;
Struck by this chance encounter,
the seaweed wind from the bay, the ordinary.

Stooped with shopping bags, 
an elderly woman stands aside to allow a priest, 
resplendent in clerical garb, 
enter the Claddagh Church before her.

The tabernacle gleams. 
He waltzed her to Jim Reeves
songs after the pub on Sunday nights 
before he fell in love with death. 

Maybe time was invented
so that misery might have an end. 
So that it shouldn’t last forever?
There may be something in this.

Banal authority and malignancy
should hold no mortal sway.
I carry her bags up Henry Street,
soft breeze on my back from the bay.