[Originally published on Popcorn Popping, 2006]
It takes a heartless person to find
amusement in the crazy people you
see in the city.
So you watch the ones who are probably fine,
but there's no way of being certain.
The guy in spandex shorts, for example:
sometimes fluorescent green, the color
of sour candy, sometimes charcoal.
A tank top, good running shoes,
big headphones, the kind that cancel out
all ambient noise.
He dances in circles down the yellow line,
the difference between in and out
bound traffic. Arms automatic,
a pulsing, shadow-boxing, disco move.
He hops on one foot, kicks the other shoe
in front, to the side, in front again;
cranes his neck at the crowd where you walk.
The pack of attorneys and lobbyists;
secretaries and tourists pouring from
the yawning mouth of the metro station,
Farragut North. He screams "hey man!"
and keeps dancing, dancing.
Silently the pack contemplates this apparent
bolt of recognition; tries to see in him
an eighth-grade history teacher, a pastor
from home; a father's college roommate.
“Keep walking,” it shudders.
He is neither sick nor dangerous
your instinct tells you; and you sum
and interpret all the signs:
He is in good shape (better than you).
His moves adapt to oncoming traffic.
You have always wanted headphones like that.
In fact, as you push through the revolving door
of your building: a squat block that in
every detail conforms to code,
as you board the elevator, smiling politely
as you approach the plastic mat behind
your desk, protecting, dutiful as always,
the carpet from the wheels of your chair,
you envy him.