City Walking

I carry my voice in a brown paper bag, the top rolled down three crumpled turns

to seal it in real tight but not tight enough that I can’t get it out when I need it.

I carry my brown paper bag in my right hand, my arm barely swinging at my side

through these London streets. I hold my head up high, my nose tipped slightly

above the horizon line, but diverting my gaze from oncoming eyes

they never lock with a passerby’s, my feet travelling in straight unswerving lines

even in front of crowded tube stations because we all know it’s eye contact

that gives them courage to stay their path and knock you off yours.

But if they don’t see me, their noses pointing down into a glowing screen

I unroll my bag ever so slightly, two uncrumpling turns in preparation,

just in case, I may need my voice, my words to alert, warn and yes, even scold,

for failure to notice my approach, my steady path through this city’s space

untouched, unmoved, unscathed. And if they don’t yield, and I don’t yield

and our bodies touch, an elbow in my rib, a briefcase in my shin, a dirty look

I uncrumple that last roll of my paper bag and hold it open like a gift,

offering them to peer inside and always without fail they stop and do just that,

like the curious cat that was killed, and my voice it rises up from the paper bag

like an encompassing fog, swallowing them whole, like Jonah’s raging whale,

washing over them until my throat is raw, my lungs deflated,

and my red, sweaty face aching, my wrath spent in one fiery blaze

that knocks them in the gut, they sidestep, out of my path, a clumsy dance,

and then I roll the top of my brown paper bag down in three crumpled turns

seal it real tight but not tight enough that I can’t get my voice out when I need it,

and continue on my way, this! is city walking.

Poems

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