The dragon is in the street dancing beneath windows
pasted with colored squares, past the man
who leans into the phone booth's red pagoda, past
In those days I thought their endless thrum
was the great wheel that turned the days, the nights.
In the throats of hibiscus and oleander
Reflected in the plate glass, the pies
look like clouds drifting off my shoulder.
I'm telling myself my face has character,
If Baroque were more than a manner
of music, it would be this last afternoon.
Sun, disciplined by hours, moves slowly
Sometimes after hours of wine I can almost see
the night gliding in low off the harbor
down the long avenues of shop windows
Gone to seed, ailanthus, the poverty
tree. Take a phrase, then
fracture it, the pods' gaudy nectarine shades
Streetcar wires sing steel nocturnes
promising the mystery of travel. Sitting cornered
in chiaroscuro, he anticipates her choreography.
Streak of world blurred charcoal & scarlet, the El slows,
brakes near the platform, Little Chinatown,
& there's that window, peeling frame, screen split
A perfect veronica, invisible, scallops air
before the bull, the bartender's fluttering hands.
Tipped with silken fruit tinseled gold,
It snakes behind me, this invisible chain gang—
the aliases, your many faces peopling
that vast hotel, the past. What did we learn?