Away from her dear home,
seven blocks from her house
and the street buckles,
facades of buildings diagonal themselves
inward, toward her
creating a tunnel surrounding her
where underwater sounds
infiltrate and echo in her skull
and each step she takes
takes her into a staircase labyrinth
mazing her in a free prison
of spiked walkways,
of fumes lifting from sidewalk slate,
of embarrassing breathlessness
prompting trickling perspiration
and her mouth’s wet taste
and a shifting fear funneling
inward, toward her
blanking out what’s above her
thus protecting her from the world
even as it causes terror of the world
with its monstrous people,
its biting sounds,
as black and gray annihilate all other colors
and in front of her becomes behind
and behind morphs into in front…
Some people focused in it;
others ignored it.
A gaggle in shorts and jeans
and bottle-necked tops and sandals
and sneakers and moccasins
gathered beneath the branch
it stood upon.
One person snapped a photo
and then another person, another picture,
the madness of a fashion shoot
taking over where Union Square East
collided with Union Square North.
A not-so-plain clump of feathers
throned in a plane tree,
the leaves and the bird
oblivious to the attention.
When the fat thing made a slow motion
180 degree turn of its head
the crowd shifted in unison
toward the deity
standing in its calm divinity.
Each wide-eyed member of the group
waited for the round sounds,
the downward cast of its wise eyes.
It existed as an issue,
something to toss around in conversation
or shovel over and ignore.
A few spectators did just that:
“Leave it alone,” they whispered
before strolling away.
Others hanged on its every hoot
as if they were branches to grasp
on the journey toward Nirvana
or at least signals on a path
away from the ordinary.
Austin Alexis teaches
at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) in Downtown Brooklyn and
lives in Manhattan. He has been published in a number of
anthologies, journals and magazines, including Paterson Literary Review, The Writer and Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and about the Police (Soft Skull Press). His chapbook, For Lincoln & Other Poems (Poets Wear Prada Press), was a Small Press Review "Pick of the Month," and he has received a Mobius: The Poetry Magazine
Editor-in-Chief's Choice Award, a Pushcart Prize nomination and
residency fellowships at the Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico.