(Paterson, Winter, 1978)
These leaves – windswept yet frozen from an already long winter – wander these streets like I do, Chlorophyll homogenized by time, season and the star-blue glare of downtown Paterson’s street lights, ghost-like, linger after the crowds have gone. Their movement echoes off the stone faces of banks and legal buildings that frame this corner of this part of the city, shaping it into an island or a prison from which the bus provides salvation, leavings shuffling under each footfall, cracking the way ice cracks when struck, the emptiness filled with sound like substance. Even cops stop walking here after dark.
I am one more leaf rustling, the child of season making the tips of my fingers numb, my nose drip, feeling a melting season come that is not yet ready to arrive, me moving the same way the leaves move, from doorway to doorway, hoping not to get sucked into one the way many leaves have, piled in drifts not frosted enough to be mistaken as snow, my whole life lived from foot rise and its descent, each step landing on a landscape I have no time or energy to explore, not alien after so many years of coming and going here, just different, altered, rebuilt since my last memory so as to seem strange and new, making me restless and aware that nothing every stays the same, even seemingly unchanging places such as Paterson.
When I see people they are black people, and they stare at me, the wrong-colored leaf for this time after dark, a pale yellow in a place where nearly all the other leaves are brown, and I wonder, cannot remember, if this was the same when I came here at 17, foolish and naïve, lost then as I am lost now, lacking, however, all the missteps I have since made so as to feel less lost then than I feel now, less lonely, governed more then by hormones than experience, seeking something not yet found rather than something lost, scared of nothing, except not knowing, where as I know what I know scares me most. I walk and wait and watch for the bus to arrive and bring me to salvation.