“What can hide man from mutability?” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Prometheus Unbound”
Late morning is when it first happens.
“How are you?” a stranger says to me
as we are passing—going our separate ways—
a vacant lot, trash blotting the area
around a single row of baby trees,
each performing at different levels,
each tasting spring in its own way.
My mouth cannot open. Luckily,
the man’s forehead is like an eye shedding—
shunting aside—concern. He is gone
before I know it. How am I?
My mind murmurs music written
in myriad keys in accordance
with the abstract tenets of beauty,
vacant yet fertile. And now it is
happening all over again, deeper
into the city, where nothing grows
but a chance brush with an acquaintance.
“How are you?” she says as we are passing—
going our separate ways—the library steps
content with time and weather-beaten.
Am I fine? My mouth opens, and out
comes the answer and the echo
of the question. She is fine, too.
Everything is fine. God’s eye
is cast down on our pact. Divinity
possesses worship, and not
the other way around, fertile
yet… “How are you?” a friend says
as she sits down across from me
in a coffee shop. My answers arise
in swift and tempered shapes.
My palms are empty. My feet in my shoes
cannot touch the floor. My fingers
cannot alight on the apparitions
of notes in my mind as one by one
they pierce the heart of a faceless spirit.
And now it is mid-afternoon, and I am
on my way back home. “How are you?”
another man, another stranger, says
as he is going his separate way.
By this time, I am ready to weep.
And now, fine on some level I did not
start out with, understanding more
than ever what it means to be rooted
to nowhere, I am passing the vacant lot.
Douglas Nordfors’ poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, and he has published three books of poetry, Auras (2008), The Fate Motif (2013), and Half-Dreaming (2020), all with Plain View Press.