Monday, January 16, 2006

Charles Street, Late November

A friend on the edge of death tap-taps
his way, cane-first, to the apothecary.
My arm is the apple branch at his side,
his hand more oriole than invalid.
Ever elegant, he wears a wide-brimmed hat
and mackintosh, pausing often to deplore
the self-indulgence of this wealthy corridor:
the French provincial rosewood perfume box
lined in velvet, "a little coffin for scents,"
and the Portuguese linen smocks
embroidered with ducklings
"who'll get their feet wet more often
than the poor heiresses for whom
these dresses will be bought."
At the corner, a pair of border collies
who seem to have just steered a herd
of sheep back up Mt. Vernon Street
bound to a halt at my friend's feet.
They admire each other, this man
and the neighborhood's working dogs
caught in the thrill of a fresh task.
Their names fall softly from his lips
as he struggles to remove one glove
so they may lick his fingers.
We continue over crazed brick.
Inside the narrow shop that smells of chocolate
and cellophane-wrapped cordwood,
he glides by the pharmacist and dwells
in the stationery aisle; I wait as he chooses
a pocket date book for the coming year.

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