At the table in patio seating,
a young man starched into my evening
in waiter black and white--
he's probably named John, Tom,
something less spectacular than the busboy
named Ari at the table beside me.
He is a boy I've seen and I hide that from him,
a silence he doesn't understand as he turns away
not remembering that a week ago while waiting for a bus
I saw him step over the legs of an old
sprawled on the sidewalk. His foot
not clearing her arm, caught,
so that he jerked her body
while a consciousness
almost found her but didn't,
just stirred somewhere below her face.
In the spiral where he turned he glanced
not at the woman but to see who'd seen.
He saw me watching him, jack-lighted and drawn
into the warm ceremony that fell through him.
I understood this explosion,
the burn from the beginning,
there when a bus passes, or a waiter
quietly puts down your check.
He could be my brother,
have parents at home in Ohio where there is a small lie
buried in a garden with snow peas and basil.
There may be another breaking the soil,
dogs who bark into the woods,
constellations who see our freeways as spines--
or he may miss a warm climate,
groves of oranges measuring the circular
scent of weight each time a heavy fruit falls.
He may know that secretly
the hearts of children conspire to stop
when parents close their bedroom doors.
But in this construction,
the pace that takes him back and forth
in the servitude of strangers,
he has forgotten, again, to feel for me,
eating alone, a woman familiar
deep in the eyes,
with his same knowledge of movement
that bends us forward,
the instinct of our heels
ready to turn against that jerk a body makes
even in dead sleep,
the stir that is less than we ask for,
less than an old woman,
or a woman growing old.