By Lawrence Wray
A wooden footbridge reaches over
the stream where the available sunlight is
diffuse on the Touch-me-nots.
I made for this place at the first hint
of being at home. Here below the water
treatment plant I hear acorns drop
on the road above. Nothing substantial
separates me from the misused men
I see sleeping on the grass in the park
across from the Light of Life shelter.
Jack-by-the-hedge becomes pungent,
the clustered white flowers ardent—
almost the only other company I can bear
this afternoon—Sassafras on the path
border, the run dropping over flagstones
so wide they make a stairway,
spilling from pools and ducking under
the footbridge. It’s nothing from my seat
I can look down on and see my shadow
dangling feet over the water,
my face looking up between my legs
at a blind spot. Listening to passing notes
as the run pours away, I see the matted
hair and soiled clothes, the plastic bags.
But here it feels I’m not kept apart.
The eighteen inch Madonna that stood
tucked in on a rock shelf is missing.
But the still standing dead tree
across the bridge, and the living and dead
I carry—both the suffuse and those
becoming suffuse—they’re at hand.
No need to stack stones where she stood.
If I saw a few that were balanced,
I might linger here more, the closest
thing I’ve seen in the city to a holy well.
But runs like this dwindle or dry up
or gush in rain, an overlooked waste place,
redolent with its own kind of silences.
The tree stripped slowly of bark strips me.
Radiant Black-eyed Susans strip me.
Lawrence Wray’s work can be found in the anthology Verse Envisioned and in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Presence, Poetry Salzburg Review, Indiana Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Dark Horse, and Pittsburgh Poetry Review. His collection, The Night People Imagine, has twice been a finalist for the Antivenom Prize at Elixir Press. New work can be found in Coal Hill Review and Relief.