After my shift ends at the bakery I walk uptown.
It is early afternoon. I stomp up Front Street in flour stained boots.
Eventually, I kick off the bread-dust.
I ignore the burn on my left hand – it is of my own doing.
In time, I shake off the day and the bread too.
It is half past two, and a storm is racing in from the western slope.
So I have three hours to kill – Leah is still counting parking tickets downtown.
She works at the Department of Revenue, and she is busy extracting coins.
She takes them from yellow envelopes and puts them into grey bags.
She accounts for those who have paid their debt to parking society.
A guy I know named Pearson – a man who hasn’t worked in many years,
But who is truly a good soul, calls to me from the doorway of the Timberline Tap.
He says because it is so early, I should come in and drink with him.
I tell him that I can’t today – Aunt Olympia must remain bound and shackled.
He laughs. I tell him I have errands to run, but that is a lie.
Further up, I stop at a market and I buy green grapes from a man named Carlos.
He knows it is Thursday, and I don’t work on Thursday afternoons.
He asks me about the bakery and if there is any work there for a grocer.
He says I have flour under my nails and he wonders if it ever goes away.
It is a matter of time and money I say, and he smiles like he knows.
Up at the Bellevue Bookstore, the Russian owner – I don’t remember his name,
Barely looks at me when I enter the store. I move past him.
I hurry past the ordered shelves: I head for the mess in back.
I shun the shelves of paperbacks, and the weighty, and the out of print.
I turn left at the “Native American History” section.
In the back, by the window that faces west, I find the poetry section.
The shelves are barely as wide as I am. I look at the books, afraid of commitment.
I select a narrow one – the slimmest one. I pull up a wooden stool.
Fresh drops of rain from the mountains peck at the windows above my head.
I eat green grapes and read from the slim volume.
The Russian comes by pushing a load of used books in a cart.
He says his favorite writers are Russian, and he tells me about his father,
Who was a great reader, as well as a good communist.
But his father was dead and his mother too and even his own wife.
And the Bellevue Bookstore was all that was left of a capitalistic experiment.
He thinks I look like the Bohemians he knew in Seattle,
In the days he lived there with his wife, before he bought the Belleview.
And he says I should take my own wife and go away while I still can.
He thinks that a man of my years should live nearer the coast.
Too much mountain air thins the blood.
I nod, but I have no desire to move away – but I don’t tell him.
Trotsky, the bookshop tabby curls up at my feet – strange how I recall his name.
Rain pounds at the windows and I settle back against the wall.
I am content with my slender volume of poems, just for Thursday.
I am content with my grapes, content with Leah and the rain.