Across the street, barbers
do pull-ups under the fire escape,
tattoo artists stand on
their stoop, smoking, staring
at their phones, and cars
drive down Prince Street, deeper
into the city.
A man stands on the corner with his standard-
issue cardboard sign
FOOD OR CLOTHING
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Driving along the sidewalk
towards him are construction
vehicles worth more than my house. The men
in hardhats stand in a semi-circle, savages
discerning the will of demanding gods,
then peel back the crumbling macadam, lay
the pipes, and cover it with more debris.
Always more debris.
The barbers cheer and count their strength.
The artists breathe in and sigh out their smoke.
The construction beeps its backwards movement.
And in the middle of all this, in the middle
of this city, this construction, this noise, these
sad and weary people, these begrudging
celebrants, these conquering barbers,
these smoldering artists, I cannot get the image
of that refugee boy out of my mind, the boy
drowned on the beach.
Rag doll limp, waterlogged, his face planted in the sand
like a castle, or a seashell, the sound of the waves always
in his ears. I try to imagine him, or the essence
of him, rising up and walking into the water, leaving
his body behind, his hands
gliding over the waves, ripples rolling
outward from his movement.
I am tired of talking.
Cars are always driving down Prince Street, always
driving. There is no end to them.
There is no end to the number of us
who will sleep well tonight on soft pillows, who
will eat too much, watch too much television,
who will wake up tomorrow with that
same gnawing ache that says
nothing is quite
as it should be.