THE REFUGE ROOM
From this tenement walkup, we measure time
by the occasional sound of traffic.
The city tore down the school across the street
when the children moved away last year,
and homeless men now sleep there,
amidst the rubble and the textbooks.
At midnight the fires roar in trash cans
and drown the initiation rites of street gangs.
The mayor and reporters once passed through,
but that was before we went on pension.
The dogs tire of their own pointless barks,
yet they find comfort in their echoes.
Pigeons retreat from hydrant to fire escape
before they stir hostility on the window ledge.
Last night I dreamt of old people like us
walking down hallways and alleyways all night,
vanishing in the glow of a moonlit park
where I imagined them at rest on broken benches.
The lamppost flickers as I speak,
as you listen, the lamppost flickers.
Looking north, the sky rises in shadow
And the wind reflects fiercer than the sun.
The mail did not arrive today. Groceries come tomorrow.
The weather report: more clouds and wind.
No car has passed:
is time standing still for us?
- Philip Vassallo