I think of him and smell Sea Breeze Astringent,
Green Palmolive Soap, Aramis Cologne,
freshly laundered clothes.
When he sang his voice opened windows,
released the air in an angel’s trumpet.
There was that ineffable something
that broke through the distance between
tenement and kingdom, his voice a castle without moats.
He hobbled towards a loftier life;
Puccini, Wagner, Verdi, Massenet, Bizet, Rossini
were his gods and he sang them full lyric baritone
as he sorted mail at the Eighth Avenue Post office
Less than a mile from his unfulfilled dreams.
When I heard her something in me knew her.
She sat near the curb, her body folded
as if ready to pay obeisance to some forgotten god.
She sang snatches of arias in a trained coloratura,
accompanied herself on a bruised accordion.
Like her, there were keys missing.
She was clean; her hair still blonde.
Her mouth twisted to the right as she sang
as if holding a cigarette and talking.
Her belongings sat behind her
stashed in a floral suitcase,
the kind you use when traveling distances.
There was the question of the ruddy face
and swollen fingers (perhaps swollen feet),
but she was no one from whom you would shy away.
On the ground, a maroon make-up case gaped open
seeking tribute from those startled at her voice.
As it filled, she said with a white tooth smile,
“Thank you so much” and “Have a good day”.
What she didn’t say was
“God Bless You”,
and for that the angels were grateful.
There was a twinning between them,
loss of who they were meant to be
but, in a moment of choice,
the Imp who controls fate determined
who had the suitcase and who had the home.