Arts Listings

Four Poems

By John Rowe
Friday December 28, 2007


(An “encounter” on the corner of Allston & Harold Way, Berkeley) 


She said:  

You know—  

it may be all in your head 


She spoke this  

not directly at me  

but into her cell phone 


though I couldn’t help  

but recognize  

as she walked on by 


how right she was  

no matter who  

she was talking to  


and while appearing  

not to be, no doubt  

that message was for me 


I heard it loud and clear  

like the most recent thoughts  

all in my head 



At the Berkeley Farmers’ Market  

I choose a few  

fresh zucchini, yellow squash. 


The woman takes 

and weighs my bag.  

Receiving my money, she says  


“You look like my  


He lives in Atlanta  

but his presence is here 


standing before me.”  

She doesn’t look like  

the one sister I have 


but her warm face is  


If I had a second sister  

it could be she. 


She thanks me.  

I thank her in return  

and walk away,  


heading home to Georgia  

where I’ve never been. 




Since I have nothing to worry about  

I do worry about nothing 


I have nothing to lose  

and sure enough  

nothing does come up missing  

time and time again 


Every time nothing's lost  

I have nothing to find  

and that means another wasted day  

looking around the house—  

under sofa cushions,  

piles of papers and mail— 

searching for nothing.  

Then I realize that I’ve left a window open,  

so I put my shoes on, go outside  

and start hollering for nothing:  


Nothing, Nothing!!! 


Can you understand  

the predicament I’m in?  

I should never have let myself  

get so attached to nothing. 




As I’m passing by corner market,  

heading two doors down to laundromat,  

heaving loads of my dirty clothes,  

the owner bellows through doorway:  

“14 million!” I stop in my tracks.  

He points up toward Super Lotto sign— 

knows I’ve played before. 


In a timeless moment I imagine  

everything around his pointed direction  

begin to disappear, one by one:  

the Lotto banner, stacks of newspapers  

and copies of TV Guide’s latest edition,  

wilting lettuce in his meager produce section,  

Twinkies and Ding Dongs  



until whole store fades out 

as does rest of his body,  

leaving only a finger’s  

illuminated trajectory  

guiding my vision into night sky numbers  

far beyond millions. 


Way out there my mind speeds  

through billions and billions of stars and galaxies,  

reaching other side of  

infinite universe. 


Back on Earth, I tell him  

I’ll likely buy a ticket next week— 

there’s decent chance the jackpot  

will be over 20 million by then. 


Right now I have just enough in my pockets  

for the washers and dryers.  

I want to get these loads done as quickly as  


counting on some free time at end of the evening. 


With any luck,  

I’ll leave with everything I came in with— 

clothes now clean, folded  

and not having lost a single sock.