September 9, 2010
I dropped my Volvo off for servicing
and instead of waiting
for the mechanics to finish
decided to walk back to my office.
Students rushed to class. The son
of an old friend I seldom see
nodded as he hurried past.
My daughter was in one of the buildings
learning about human development
or discussing “Sinners in the Hands
of an Angry God.”
I helped her interpret the sermon last night .
I went to this college decades ago.
On the other side of the campus
I stopped and took Blackberry photos
of the old Newman Machine Company.
It went bankrupt last year
(“business ground to a halt”
is what I'll say
when this becomes a poem)
and now it's being torn down.
My first job was there,
minding a milling machine.
I wrote a poem about what it was like
to punch in everyday
and how I felt trapped
and how one day pigeons
flew in through
a hole in the roof.
I didn't write that I imagined
the pigeons were doves.
The building had green windows
that swung up when the janitor
unhooked them. I once said
out-loud that they looked
like an old-time accountant's eyeshade
and none of the old guys
in their blue work uniforms
talked to me the rest of the day.
I was still learning how to be a man.
Downtown a long train crossed South Elm Street.
The warning honks were too loud.
I put my hands over my ears.
It used to make my mother sad
that her children would never hear a train whistle.
She said it was a sound
that took the lust out of romance,
I guess the way a coke oven
cooks the impurities out of iron.
I could have walked one block over
and looped under the trestle
instead of waiting for the train.
But what was the hurry?
My office was only a block
farther down the street
and I liked being outside.
Now I'm inside my office typing this
when I should be editing
a book about M. Gandhi.
I got a little sweaty on my walk
and the air conditioning,
always too cold
this time of year,
is giving me the shivers.