The Cloisters

The building claims its place among the swirling winds
off the lake. It claims sunlight and the yellow glow
of streetlights at night. It claims the steam exhaled
from nearby sewers and the rain spat down on its streets.

The building claims sophistication in classic red
brick and gray masonry. It conceals treasures
embedded in its body, brass nozzles and valves
reflecting nothing but light. Prairies are carved

in the blossoming stonework of its columns to proclaim
that what dominated the land is now dominated by stone.
But passersby often miss the building’s declaration
even as lights flicker on to illuminate the script.

The building is a tangible manifest of roughness
and smoothness. Skin brushed against the façade grinds
tiny knurls of torn skin powdered by the dust of the city.
The painted steel railings feel cold and oddly thick.

The building is neither ashamed nor abandoned,
its honeycomb of window air-conditioners buzz
and its old elevator motors hum. A crew of pipes
hammer water from its belly below the street.

The building is busy putting up with the people
echoing through its halls, filling its rooms,
pressing hot handprints into its cold windows
as they gaze out to the place where the sky collapses.

What the building cannot understand is why its size
is barely noticed by a child walking along its arcade.
The child is fascinated instead by the reflecting pool
glinting in a green courtyard locked against intrusion.

The child peers through the cloistered arches
at a discreet fountain that seems neither heroic nor
monumental. Its single sunlit stream of water
splashes quietly into a sloped copper-lined channel.

It is in the courtyard that the building’s loneliness
is best communicated. It is there that time loiters,
waiting to claim the building after the rooms empty
and the building finally loses its place by the lake.