Every Sunday there is a man screaming at the sea.
At dawn, I hear him yelling,
Voice straining violently
As the low tide waves do nothing
To drown him out and let me sleep.
I want to warn him that this weekly ritual is probably bad
For those fragile little threads in his throat.
I can hear them break over the surf,
Especially when he reaches the top of his register.
It sounds like losing one’s balance.
At first I thought he was drunk.
After the third time I thought it was rage,
Then grief after the fourth,
And then back to alcohol-induced.
I went to yell to the man,
But saw he had headphones in and could not hear me.
“Madam, il le fait pour chanter mieux,”
The guard says at my shoulder.
He grabs his throat in his fingertips
And makes a gesture that suggests strengthening.
I nod as though I understand this logic.
“C’est le sel – c’est bon pour la voix.”
If I wanted to sound like beef jerky
I too would scream at the ocean.
The salt would cure my throat so that it never got tired.
In front of us, just out of earshot
The man keeps sing-screaming to the endless ocean
Off-rhythm and Off-key
Hoping to have a voice as tough as the surf.
I cannot have your phantom fingers
On the nape of my neck,
Rolling over my earlobes,
Running parallel lines down my spine.
I have responsibilities.
I have schedules, calendars, deadlines.
Your hands, and their lingering indentations,
insinuations, and general implications,
need to find time in the aforementioned schedule
when I can devote the necessary mental energy
to reveling in their phantom touch.
As it stands, they are an annoyance,
a reminder that I was more agreeably occupied.
Now I have work to do.
I cannot afford to be distracted
By the ghostly sensation of pleasant pressures.
This is me, not being distracted.
Not being tempted.
Am I succeeding?
I am not.
A man strums a ukelele.
It’s a soft and sturdy tune.
His white service dog works hard at not being distracted by the wild sparrows fighting over discarded pastry.
To his own music, a boy runs under the jacaranda trees.
He’s been told to catch one on his head.
Something about Canadian mythology.
Purple blooms fall sporadic and soft,
like the strains of music
casually edging the corners of the courtyard,
mixing with the single spout fountain
underscoring the reprimands of hungry birds.
Away, inside, commuters pace, buy, sleep.
Out here the contented vagabonds waiting
For the next train to arrive.
The boy leaps high, his nose touching a falling flower.
Calling this triumph, he sits beside me
And asks if I was watching.