What to Do in the City

“Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.”
Blaise Pascal

Touch the shoulders of shirts and sweaters
in the Jarrett Centre. I am. I can tell what
I’m attracted to by touch, what makes me feel
alive, alien, dirty, or a liar. A lady an aisle over,
a worker, is cussing shirts that won’t stay on hangers,
organizing things. As far as I can tell,
returning chaos to chaos. I’ve done this at
work myself, the cussing, the effort at order.
She asks aloud (to me? ), “What song is this?
And then announces, when it’s over,
“Brian Adams, Cuts Like a Knife.”
She’s pretty pleased with herself.
With every item I add to my cart,
I return to inspect a detailed list of product prices
laminated to a post. It’s the cheapest thrift store around.
Even so, I carefully consider each item.
I ask a worker how much books are,
hoping they’re a dollar. They’re two.
Everything is relative, right. I try on
a flannel shirt, so old and soft
it feels as though it has built-in memories.
I look in a mirror and am kind of surprised—
I’m not all that. I could have sworn I was
a moment before. The flannel goes back.
There’s a storm coming on. The staff
is excitedly shouting to one another about it,
coaxing friends to borrow coats and umbrellas.
When I step outside the sky’s black. I stop and listen.
Above the battery of traffic and soughing grasses:
a first clear liquid-cool snap of thunder.
Seven foot tall swathes of common reed
bring pulse to a nearby ditch. Despite the traffic,
the train tracks, the Burger King, the Staples
(and the buckshot of adjacent businesses,
along with all their shoppers), I’m beguiled.
I walk over to it and stand there passing my hands
through the undulating grasses, utterly amazed,
rooted, laughing to myself.

The Partita
A Shout from the Dark