Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Counting Cars

He has been unmoving all morning,
every morning there on the bench
on the sidewalk that looks
out over the street,
cars and trucks going by,
a highway that goes through town

And he sits and never looks up
as I pass him, his eyes hidden
under the brim of his cap,
an old man who wears a cardigan
in all weathers, a shriveled mouth partly open
like stalled speech

But this time I ask him how he is,
such listless stares might be a sign
of some unwellness for I have seen
the old ones, how they shut down,
nothing to do but fill in the days
waiting for the end

It is soon, I am sure,
as he is stooped
and flecked with the spots of his age
and I wonder if that is all there is to life,
languishing like that makes me sad

Yes, I have pity for the way his life
has turned out,
he says that he counted
a thousand cars yesterday,
a great feat it sounds like,
but a trivial thing really,
eyeing the stream of tourists and locals
from the shadows

But he goes on and tells me
that his name is Mack and he takes
great joy in coming down
to that bench every morning

Then I understand what he said,
what he did not say
and it makes me feel like a fool
for my assumptions

I know nothing for the thousand cars
are the cars that were his,
cars of friends
and cars that he coveted,
cars with his memories inside,
first dates, that first time,
running across the border
for beer on Sundays,
a thousand cars that he passed
on the many roads of his life
and the lives that brushed by him,
nearly killed him,
killed a friend, a brother,
a thousand cars
that are long gone, vanished,
left to his memory traces

He is more than old skin
he is a visionary, a seer, he knows
the purpose of his life,
knows where it leads,
what is essential, what love truly means

A thousand cars and a thousand ways
to meet grace
in presence and stillness
and in the faces looking back

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