Robert Gregory, 11/9/2015
Current Occupation: Grantwriter
Former Occupation: College Teacher
Contact Information: RG has published four full length collections of poems, most recently The Beautiful City of Weeds (Hanging Loose), and three chapbooks, most recently You Won’t Need That (Willow Springs/Acme Poem Company).
The Over and Over Again: Two Figures
Empty cars nose to tail line the curb, a white and partial moon up high and all alone above them, a sky that’s just beginning to be blue, a place that’s never seemed so deep and wide and far away.
Or just another sky that’s black for now, depending on how busy you might be with other things.
An older man sitting by himself at a table on the patio, the coffee shop just barely open and he’s there already.
It looks as if he didn’t really want to sit inside the way the other older men delight to do and listen to the chatter, the chirping as it sounds to them, of the cheery skinny long-haired girls behind the counter busy teasing and complaining and supporting each other against the common enemies, the black and empty early morning and the black and empty old necessity, the ones that have them prisoner now (but only temporarily) while they consider in between their skillful moves and gracious repetitious courtesies that someone lies (or should lie, or did lie, or will lie) alone and naked back where they belong, someone sleepy and relaxed and friendly and affectionate, or so it always seems when they are busy and in uniform and making jokes about the scones and the weather report and misplaced faith in things in magazines, things that make your hair look green as grass if you’re not careful, things intended to be devastating but that turn your skin a dead and scary white instead.
Not reading out here. Hardly any light can reach him from the interior. Not out here to smoke. Just sitting with a hand around his cup, a little hunched because it’s chilly still. Surrounded by the black and empty lot, the mainly empty roads in each direction, the hiss and rush of someone flashing by regardless deep inside a vehicle inside the radio for jokes and prices, news and movements of the systems and the storms. A little farther off, lights above the intersection change and change again.
Just a little farther still, a neighborhood of big expensive places set well back from the road, where even so they also rise or shine at this ungodly hour. Dark empty spaces: swept and tended lawns. Heavy shapes of trees, the canopies lifting high above the houses, old and calm, dignified and patient.
Maybe for a change he’s just looking, just watching the morning unfold: the opening of things, the movements and adjustments that he never had much chance to contemplate when he was busy otherwise.
Maybe not. He has the look of empty pasture now, the look of something left on a patio table, a section of the paper that’s been read and read again, no longer crisp, the look of someone up at 6 as always but bored already with this new and unexpected thing, and lonely, insignificant, no longer anyone to be asked for help or counsel, not a man to see or be afraid of, not an item on anyone’s calendar. A ghost.
Sitting all alone out here (or almost all alone, unaware of the watcher) in something more or less like darkness while it works its way across to blue again, he’s just begun to feel the early morning’s slight and temporary chill — still tentative, still just the voice and glance of a stranger, someone asking for the time – but a touch of what’s to come.
Deep down early in the empty building where the bareness of the walls and absence of the daylight make the silence even more itself, there’s a blur of sound that isn’t sound, water gray and warm from standing, old and dirty now, weary and contained inside a bucket up on wheels, an apparatus with a thousand years of dents and rust and nothing left of any maker’s name.
Not a sound of water rushing down or running off and disappearing, not living water, water in a harness rather, with its head hung down and dreaming, like the horses that he used to see asleep and standing in the days when there were wagons coming through the neighborhoods, some old dirty cheerful man aboard who shouted out or sang a song he’d made or had inherited, had always known: more like a call, a bird call in the way he worked the syllables of rags to make them last and make them move around and then come back to where they were and it brought the women out which was what counted, approaching him with some scrap they’d saved for something else and then had lost the image of or more likely the person for whom, so had let it somehow fade out and blur away and turn stale, become too thin and drab to keep it any longer.
Then a splash and a slap and now the ragged mop (that old driggle-draggle nasty thing his mother used to say when she was telling him to fetch it or to throw it out, it stank too bad, they had to get a fresh one, though where the money’s coming from I wish someone would tell me) has drawn a painter’s empty brush along the ugly floor, old and worn and faded muddy brown, down an old and empty corridor in semi-darkness now again by him, the man who’s done all this and heard all this for years and years, very early, on his own, nobody in the offices upstairs, no ties, no envelopes, no legal pads, no shiny shoes with little tassels, no sound of women’s heels, a sound he’s always liked, although they’re hell on wax. No sound of voices giving orders about what to do or how to do it.
And so the silence is maintained. A man who leans into his work as always, wrapped again — or veiled it could be since he sees the stuff around him well enough — inside a dream or something like a trance, as always, a trance beyond which he can see elsewhere in memory so easily because it’s always just the same:
Outside it’s just a little after dawn and all the crows that gather at the corners of their chosen tree or favorite piece of roof have spread their heavy glossy wings and gone, giving out a cheerful and annoying sound, a challenge and a brag.
Like those young hoodlums do who stand around on corners, the difference being — one difference anyway — that they’ll never fly, although they’re always trying, always talking like they will, like they do already, so they say, and he did too, for a while it really seemed to be so. But it was only noise.
It all comes down to something else that isn’t much like flying. If you want to live at all. Some don’t, not really. Not bad enough.
And yet it isn’t so bad. All it really is, is learning how to deal with the over and over again.
That – and how it gets so quiet when you’re on your own. But there’s ways around it.
Thinking about the noise they make that no one really hears because it’s not a word, it’s only crows again. They've been making that sound a long time. But that's just it.