Home > Poetry > In Early Spring
Published: Fri Oct 15 1982
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
In Early Spring

Is it need or desire
which keeps me
in this labyrinth
of bricks and smoke
and sirens? I see
an old man sleeping
on the sidewalk and step
aside. Almost noon,
the warm day shivers
with abundance.
If he were a tree,
I wouldn’t be afraid of him.
His skin, which wears
too much bad weather, would make
a fine, tough bark. Leaves
would just be starting
and sparrows flitting about,
calling to each other.
The abundance would protect
them all. But need or desire
keeps us separate,
keeps me walking on.
If I were a tree,
I’d have nothing to fear
from him. I wouldn’t mind
his stench of dirt and piss
or the rage which fills
his face when he gets up
to find himself lost
again in his confusion.
I keep on walking
until I’ve left the old man
far behind, until
I’m tired of all this
being born and dying
and being born once more.
Who’s following me?
What’s this echoing
my steps with need,
desire, need? I’m just
an old man sleeping
on the sidewalk, just
a tree in early spring.
I just keep walking
down the streets
that lead to other
streets that lead
to other streets.

See what's inside AGNI 17

David Ghitelman has had poems in New Letters, CutBank, and The Iowa Review. He lives in Brooklyn and is learning Japanese. (1982)

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