My alarm is the morning news at 6:30;
I awake to an interview with a man who used
to work as a guide on Mt. McKinley in Alaska
but left that job to go to Iraq and record the thoughts
of people whose homes had been bombed
by the Americans.
He’s compiled these into a book.
The interview goes on until
Amy Goodman tells him “You have ten seconds”
for a final response.
It’s 7a.m. I want to
sleep in—for at least another half hour.
But I can’t.
I have to be at work by 8:30.
Punctuality is an important category on our
annual performance evaluations
and the fewer checks in the “needs improvement” column
I get up, shower, eat and leave.
I remember what Uncle Charlie
played by Joseph Cotten in
Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt said:
“I can’t face the world until I’ve had my morning coffee.”
So I go directly to Peet’s on Shattuck Avenue
for a nonfat latte.
It’s the first day of rain in months;
people seek shelter.
Inside Peet’s a homeless man says
“It’s already 8:25. I have to get back out there.”
He says this with the determined focus
of a high-powered executive
or of a policeman who loves his job.
His possessions are in a metal cart with tiny wheels;
His hair hangs like wet strings against the side of his head.
Leaving Peet’s I continue up Shattuck Avenue
past the Bank of America and
the Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Nepalese
And the Marine Corps
“Officer Selection Office”
that isn’t as big as it looked on the TV news.
a man I’ve seen sleeping in the doorway
of the abandoned skin care spa
staggers down the center of the sidewalk,
roused out of his soiled sleeping bag bed
by the rain and wind.
With all the energy he has
he punches the air in front of him
the way you imagine King Lear acts toward the end of the play
shouting in his own language.
A man in a suit, carrying a briefcase,
hurriedly walks by.
I’m afraid of King Lear but when I walk by him
he stares directly into space
missing me completely.
I watch him stagger away around the street corner
and out of sight.
I walk down the street past
the store that sells only Bollywood videos and saris.
I enter the Golden Bear office complex and
get on the elevator at the same time as Renita,
who works in payroll.
It’s one of the few times
we’re close or speak to one another
about anything other than
the printer that keeps jamming.
The hallways leading to our office are carpeted and clean;
the lighting and temperature
The sounds muffled.
If it were not for the windows
I could be in some underground complex in
Antarctica or somewhere
in the center of the earth.
From the offices of the ones
who have large windows
and who make more money
than those who work in cubicles
you can see what’s outside
but you can’t hear anything
except the sirens:
the fire trucks, the police,
At 6 p.m. I leave work
and go to the Musical Offering Café
across from Zellerbach Hall.
Tonight they’re serving lasagna.
I stand in front of the glass door of the Musical Offering
and watch Marcella the Muse as she moves among the tables
as gracefully and as peacefully
as a young doe in a field of grass.
There are plenty of empty seats in the place and
I consider going inside but
The rain has stopped. People
look happier. I hear the wind
breathe through the wet leaves on the trees.
The dark clouds
slowly roll away
like the smoke from an explosion.
Somewhere in the distance
I hear the song of the BART train
as it stops and leaves for the next station.
All day, all night
it plays the same long note.
In the apartment above mine
I hear a couple talking.
I can’t understand what they’re saying.
And the silence returns.
But it never left.