Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25, 2010: A Walk in Morris Park

Two cop cars angle parked jut onto Broad Street in front of the South Philly Free Library. See only the feet of the cops other side of car. Who they are talking to I cannot see. Down steps out of the sunlight, over stained concrete, crumpled Marlboro box... man on horse in western garb dead of AIDS, through the gate and down again to the platform of the Morris-Tasker stop, Broad Street Subway. Young man on bench face terribly scarred, disfigured. Burns? Tumors post- surgery? Surgical scars on scalp under short cropped hair. Our eyes meet. I am his mirror. What does he see? Life of the mind and life of the body go their own ways. I am not as you see me. You are not what I see. Train roars into the station, rush of air from the tunnel. Inside, a woman. My eyes drawn to her beautiful face, her dark eyes. See in her youth my age. Possibilities that once would have plucked on the strings of my mind, no more. What does she see in the mirror of my face?

Off at City Hall. Up the narrow stairs, line of passengers rush past, shoulder me out of the way. My heavy Morris Park cane left on the porch. Would it be enough to defend against a flash mob? I see it twisted out of my hand, I am beaten to the ground. Who would come to may aid? Tall black man on the platform, 15th Street station. Painfully thin. Stick figure beneath his clothes. Long, delicate hands, fingers a cigarette. A white guy in a Phillies cap sees the smoke. Got a cigarette? Shakes head no. White guy walks past me, mumbles—for me to hear ? --faggot he says. I shake my head...contempt … for who to see? Cannot recognize myself in his mirror. Disappears into the crowd.

69th Street. 65 bus. Young man with a white folding cane, eyes turned inward. I am no mirror to him but he is mine. No classes waiting for me on campus this time. Not this time. Not for more than a year now. The buds of the magnolia by the library swell. I do not see them, but tell myself, the buds of the magnolia are swollen. Soon they will bloom, I tell myself, and in the mirror of my mind I see them in sunlight and rain. A man, huge, dark, takes the seat beside me… two seats. I slide into the corner, his thighs press against mine. Once I would have been able to easily outrun a man of such girth. Could I now? Sandals loose on my feet, this leg held in place by pins and screws. Why do I imagine a need to run? Why would I want to? Why would he want to harm me? He looms mountainous beside me. I am small. Mouse to elephant. Less than small in his eyes. Not even small. Not even that. He doesn’t see me at all, here, sitting beside him waiting. Waiting for my stop.

The grass of the golf course is full green. Almost April. A few trees in flower. Pink blossoms. Trees. Branches touched with green, buds, new leaves waiting to open. Saplings planted last fall, staked and tied. Prisoners. Dead leaves. They seem not to have survived the winter. How many winters left for me? How many springs? Passing Visions now. Spelled VIZIONS. Once McNamme's. Bar where I played pool. Beer and conversation. There, across the street, a man was shot. In front of the Chinese take-out. Man or boy. The wreaths, plastic crosses, rain-wet cards stuffed animals under the snow and sun when spring came—gone. All sign of them gone.

On the way to the park, forsythia and hyacinth. Yellow and violet. Mourning dove white trimmed tail flashing. In the woods, bloodroot in bloom, umbrella leaves folded. A few ranuculus. Soon a yellow carpet. More ranuculus than I remember on the lower path. Crowding out the spring beauty, delicate pink and white petals. Water rushing over rocks. Murmuring rapids, fallen leaves circling in eddies. Indian Creek. We the invaders crowded them out. Name for what was and no more. Not here. Not in these woods. Witch hazel in new leaf. Low shrubs I cannot name. Crows I hear but cannot see. Canes of raspberry. Strips of white plastic hanging from branches, caught between rocks in the stream. Mottled leaves of trout lily, tiny spears. Skunk cabbage. Japanese honeysuckle… more invasives. A flicker flickers past. Many robins still in flock… migrating further north. A puddle on the trail reflects a passing cloud, a tiny pale blue butterfly, my image on the water. I gaze into this shimmering mirror--whose face I see I do not know.

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