Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


He Dreams of Falling

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
homeless woman
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.

Credit


From When the Moon Knows You're Wandering by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Copyright © 2002 by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press. All rights reserved.

Author


Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of several poetry collections, including Third Voice (Tupelo Press, 2016), Ending in Planes (Noemi Press, 2014), and Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun (Sheep Meadow Press, 2014). She lives in Colorado.

Date Published: 2002-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/he-dreams-falling