Fall 2009 / Issues / Poetry 2009 / Volume 40

In the Barking Park — Stephen Kessler

In the barking park

where the city’s dogs

socialize off leash sniffing each other’s butts

and tangled strips of toilet paper

fly like flags from lampposts

and children run on summer’s next-to-last day,

fat little finches hop and flit

to the rhythm of bicycle bells

and rusty ships float anchored on the river

like tired artifacts of industry

while sporty motorboats speed past celebrating the weekend

whose rain has blown inland

and whose wind shoves fall’s first leaves along the paved walks

in a preview of the coming decline.

Mine is more plain,

the weight of what I bear

ever more evident with age

and its ailments I must not mention,

but you can imagine,

just multiply yours by the number of years

and subtract what’s left,

a sum equal to the best pleasures

you can remember, thin but fine,

sweet as a girl’s face

whose future is all in front

but also fragile, a long story

nobody knows, not even her weeping mom

who grieves with a strange gratitude

for what vanished before she understood what it was.

When someone records such things–

photographers, oral historians, those who wrote letters

in the old days before instantaneity

made everything ephemeral,

all those eccentric sentimentalists

who resisted writing their memoirs yet noted

what passed as it happened–

some trace almost remains,

less than a monument but slightly more

than a twig snapped twice

by the quiet wheels of a bike.

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