I watch this man shuffle up and down
the sidewalk, the silica glint of twenty-year-old
broken glass dusting his path. His round shoulders
pull his head down with them. Under lank hair,
lines skid along his cheeks, but his eyes brighten
in the sun. Sometimes a woman walks with him.
They do not speak of their bare room, but they walk
as though they hadnít left it—two chairs at a wooden table,
dust motes slowly spinning. One slanted afternoon
he stops at our small yard sale while she looks on,
her feet rooted it seems in silent, hopeless fury
while slowly he picks through a box of old batteries,
coins, tape measures. His crooked hands shake, pulling
a harmonica from the detritus of our life, like a magician.
I do not remember ever having seen it before.
He turns it over and over, gently, learning
its weight and color. He blows one low note
like the question, Why? The woman does not move
or turn her eyes away from him, but I can see
the sound bounce off her thin chest. Then he asks,
low, How much for the harp? I answer, fifty cents.
The wavering fingers search through his pockets
until two quarters appear. They walk off together,
their silence again inviolate. I canít hear the harmonica
echo in their room, but I see them sitting, she staring
across the table as he plays small tuneless sounds
until, I think, will she take her cup and throw it?
But next spring I will see them walking by again,
the man carrying a branch of blossoming pear
ahead of them like a banner. My own chest will hollow
at the sound of their footsteps and Iíll remember
listening to my motherís cough
as she sang me a lullaby she made up herself.
fiction poetry "fact" photography