In This World of Dust and Duty

Dick Allen

BPR 45 | 2018

the green, fresh, dry smell of newly shucked peas
awakens me somewhat. It happens like that:
into the normal daze of day-to-day,
something intrudes. A word like fandango
floats out of thirty years ago. A milkweed pod opens. A
mallard splashes down. Deep in some piney woods, a half mile from any road,
two Goodyear tires lean against a boulder, exclaiming gospel.
Whose imagination set them here? It’s true,
there must be people in this world who dedicate themselves to
providing surprises. Several times a decade
they say to the woodwork, “What shall we do now?”
and one of them flies from Pennsylvania to Arizona,
then after driving a rented Jeep into the desert,
in a nondescript canyon paints eight boulders
a lovely Klein Blue. “Yes, let them figure that out,”
he says to himself. Why eight? Why Klein Blue?
How many angels can fit on the head of a pin? A covey of women
meet at 3 a.m. beneath a streetlight, near a fire escape,
in the heart of Chicago. They recite
Gwendolyn Brooks poems for precisely twenty-six minutes
and forever afterwards real miracles
happen beneath that streetlight, but only
when the rain rides the wind diagonally
and anyone walking nearby can hear the flapping of wet store awnings.
An old man wraps a thousand dollars, all singles,
in waterproof plastic layers, then he leaves the bundles
beside a rutted dirt road in Tennessee.
Who can tell what will happen? In this world of dust and duty,
I dream I’m lost in a city I know well.
Every street I take to get me back
to a simple cup of coffee or a bed with a patchwork quilt
leads me further away. It’s getting later and later,
beyond the time when anyone will wait. The buildings
turn Hopper, then fade into morning. And just as every artist’s life
is devoted, one way or another,
to finding the unfamiliar in the familiar, so
I walk rapidly from street to avenue,
avenue to street. And in that dream,
I arrive at the smoky tavern I’ve only read about,
and there are daisies, tomatoes, and candles on the table beneath the stairs,
fiercely lit as life…Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God Almighty. And as a river concert ends,
the microphone hums, the singer steps back into his band, the
first cheers haven’t yet arisen, the avalanche
is poised in our voices, soon to astonish us all.