Morning, Dealing With Etiquette


The first mushroom after a day of rain,
solitary, comes as a surprise, parasol
high under the tree next door. By
the end of the block, the only

surprise is the absence of a crowd of them
moving like Chinese women in an old newsreel,
black and white, holding up more than half the sky.


Guy on the steps of the gsb is on a cellphone
at 6am. He waits until I turn to call out
excuse me sir to my back. You see,

this gives me permission to walk away, as
in a parable, to see without taking notice.
It makes it clear he’s not a threat,

like one dog baring his throat to another.
When I turn and say what can I do for you?
He says thank you for treating me like a person,

sir, to which I reply it’s pretty clear you are one,
so why wouldn’t I?
He’s launching into what promises
to be a long tale when, treating him like a person

on the steps of the gsb at 6am chattering
on a cellphone, I ask him to cut to the chase
and tell me what it is he wants.

I’m just tryin’ to get me somethin’ to eat…
I don’t carry change on morning walks, so
I say sorry, can’t help, and walk on,

speculating about the cost of a cellphone.
He says sorry, man; and I, not
turning, say no problem.


Not until the last mushroom rises
do I see his sorry, man
was not for me.

Mutual Invisibility

In the garden under a statue of Linné,
I negotiate mutual invisibility
with two young rabbits. We stay
still for some time, contemplating
his cold gaze over a mass of warm
blossoms the day after rain. He
moved here not long after I, thinking
he’d be more at home among classifiers
and systematizers than on a Lincoln Park
lakefront full of naïve social Darwinists
working on their tans. He settled
close to social sciences and classics,
but his eyes are on the School of Law,
and he smiles a little at the thought
of Rockefeller and the GSB to his left
and serious baseball fans far to his right
who know each middle relief pitcher’s ERA
against batters on both sides and can calculate
the odds of a hit on the fly, who know
Ozzie was a chess master, that nature
red in tooth and claw is about nothing
other than being in the right place
at the right time.