Each step is the first.
My father taught me how to walk for miles looking at the ground and sametime at birds overhead, faint sickle moon, cat on a porchswing, cumulus, insectegg, cirrus, silver brooch. So in walking down Falls, I see it all except what is around the next bend in the road, what is under the bramblethicket, who is behind the steelclang door. But I can hear the tunes stuffed in oil barrels. I can hear whispers. A person could spend a whole life . . . lookwalking.
I lay one foot, then the other, on the verge of Falls Road. See there? Bugsquash; struggling leavesofgrass; dandelion whiskers; a rosehip blown from a gaygarden a block away; antifreeze puddle in a greenmelted gemmy dribble; splats of crow lime; a rats’ hide softened with forty-weight motoroil; a pigeon skin with pink legs stuck out like fancy chopsticks (I cross myself); a cobbler’s nail freed from a millworker’s boot in eighteen ninety-seven, ninety-eight.
Ninety-nine, 100, 101, 102 … a thousand and one
Sparklemica flecks; crusted lockwasher; twisted padlock key; the wincing collarbone from a med-student’s skeleton; the corner of a 50% cotton Confederate flag, sagged and suspicious up there on a high stone porch; a cicada shell hatched lonesome midway in the seventeen-year cycle; coal dust whupped up from a rehabbed cellar; a pinky-gray formstone chip; bentspoke of a bikewheel; three reflectors from pedalbacks (wanna bet how many there are on the verge of Falls?). Bottlecaps – crush-rusty boutonniéres from drunken bachelors bound to be groomed by brides?
Each step is a different step.
Scrapes of turd and flights of beetlewing. A bite of button with silkthread -- botticelli blue. A young girl’s tearstained friendship bracelet, fallen off near a hard-dirt shortcut home. Bits of broken glass: beer brown, Bromo blue, sunned lavender with greenlips of Coke bottles. Spangles of colored glass – yellow, red, blue and black – from a kaleidoscope that helped the curious child with A.D.H.D to get through a day…or was it for his rope-end mother? Dangle of red dog leash – a frayed handgrip and nothing more. What dog was it was killed? And, Daddy, is that her blood?
Every step was a lifetime.
Extruded from its mangled tube, dark oily lipstick smeared like rawliver onto stones. So, just whose kisses were promised and stolen? Is that a broken heart I hear? No, it’s just an orphan earring -- a piece of cheap redplastic; nothing more. Did that blue and white china shard come from the plate that held Grampa En’s last meatball dinner? And is that the nevertarnish lid of a nickel-silver rouge compact, like the one pale Gran carried everywhere for blushing youngcheeks, back in the day?
Walk with me?
That’s a flyer for the VFW dance in Timonium: Valentine’s Day, with a polkaband and a hot buffet – tendollars, tenderly, ten years ago, gone for good and godbless. A shiny blackpearl of glassy slag -- spit from a cokefired train – rolled for 80 years, mile by mile down Falls from the North Central track. And (for just a second) a shadowblink of light through a shutter up the hill – signaling secrets like a boyscout’s mirror.
What was lost?
What was the reward?
That yellowbrass key – see there how the hole wore out so it fell off the keyring? So who was it couldn’t get in their house? Whose phonecall was missed? Left brown kid glove, wrinklefingers frozen in a curl – grasping what?
Is each step the last?
Is that twig from a branch from a limb from a tree with a sparrow’s nest? That jaywhoppered woredown rubberheel mightacomeoff of Stanley’s workboot – the one it took him a year to break in and now it’s broke off. Damn! And a bluestripe denimhide workglove, pimpled with drywall cement, flattened in mid-handshake. Stanley’s glove? Or his friend’s … that guy, LeShawn’s?
Wetsoaked dried soakedsoddenwad driedagain grey foldedfelt of newspaper – the letters strained into each other, stories mingled updown goodbad easydangerous shockingheartyfine with a chance of… What news is too old? What notice has not been noticed? Found your watch. Describe. -- Found your dog, green collar, describe dog. Lost. Sentimentalvalueonly brown kid glove, given me by my mother, my lover, my doctor. Still got the right one. But please, I’m on the verge of a, of a... A sooty brokedown mufflerpipe with coathanger twisted around it and a peeling of plastic chrome snagged from the bumper where it hung. Who roared into hell?
What was lost? A thought.
What was found? A line.
Each step is the first step..
Every step is a lifetime.
January 2008 for friends Christine Sajecki & Joe Young and their show Deep Falls at Antreasian Gallery