sister implausible

You would not, as a rule, find her ilk in these parts;

Indeed, frat boys from the state school from a few blocks off,

Failing to heed the subtle changes inherent in the urban landscape,

Will occasionally stumble into this where-they-don’t-want –to-be

And, paying no heed to decorum or traffic regulations,

Get to some anywhere-the-hell-else in a hurry,

But she walks, partly oblivious and partly impervious to her surroundings,

Around this part of Quail Street pretty much every day,

So much a fixture of the landscape

That she knows most of the folks on the stoops and porches by name,

Those she can’t remember bestowed with pet names

Such as “Bright Eyes” or “Little Foot”

Or some other appellation which does not engender street-respect

(Indeed, once in a while, someone unfamiliar with her repartee

Will get up with the intent to shut that stupid bitch up,

But they are met with a restraining hand on the shoulder,

Though not a confrontational grab, but a pressure which says

We just don’t do that to this lady on this street.)

Those responsible for providing sanctioned aid and comfort

Are of varied opinion as to her being help or hindrance,

Her strengths being more attuned to the mercurial than the measurable,

(Though all involved marvel at her ability

To seemingly waft into the frame when necessary,

Simply materializing to hold a baby or push a car to the curb)

And, to the outright consternation of some of the sisters from St. Rose

Who come to minister this pew-free flock,

She pays fealty to a multitude of gods

Who occupy an ever-changing hierarchy in her pantheon of deities

(But those are the catechism textbook nuns,

Possessed of a blunt object rote faith,

Women who confess everything but the sin of pride)

And she brightly spouts notions which centuries ago

Might have earned her a public burning at the stake,

And even now makes some of the sisters a bit uncomfortable,

Nattering on about how all things are of the same matter,

Immutable yet indestructible (though her happy mutterings

Are sometimes interrupted by an uneasy rasping cough,

And no one can say, after all, where she sleeps, how she eats)

More often than not punctuating the sing-song psalms

By kneeling to the pavement and kissing the very dust and detritus

Littering the street, all the while tittering Holy, holy, holy—see?


17 thoughts on “sister implausible

  1. I used to live around there. I lived on Madison Avenue and the Ghetto Chopper wasn’t far from where I lived. Actually, I usually exited where I lived from the back door, which was Jefferson Street, the beginning of the ghetto. I lived near Delaware Avenue right near Delaware Avenue, and on the corner of Jefferson and Delaware, there was always these fancy Lincoln Continentals with well-dressed men dressed like Clyde Frasier who would get out at the beauty parlor there. This always seemed odd since it was a beauty parlor, and I called the Albany Police Department and gave them a heads up. Apparently, there WAS something strange going on there, because I went away for a week, and when I got back, the beauty parlor was closed.

    Also, I almost took a course at St. Rose College, but I didn’t.

    I forgot where Quail Street was and is. What significant thing is on Quail Street, W.k. Of course I remember the name “Quail Street”, but nothing about it comes to mind.

    I really did enjoy this one, W.K.


    1. “Quail” like the bird as opposed to “Quaid” like the Randy. The Maria comparison is intriguing, although I didn’t see her singing as well.

  2. Our Lady of Roads, the street’s own “mercurial” — there is a catechism here, ghetto-scat but gutter-pure, which embraces everything the eye can take in here with her passing presence. I’ve been in those neighborhoods but in the demeanor of the affrighted frat-boy, passing through but in no true enough way belonging. Her music I heard over my shoulder, fleeing, missing the real show. Great stuff.

  3. You draw your character with a keen eye, for the humane and perhaps the absurd too. Such a fine narrative has the reader walking a few paces behind.

  4. I see her and have seen her a thousand times, especially in San Francisco. Your poem evokes both sympathy and pity. Your images play with our consciences. Street people used to be oddities when I was a girl. Now, in places where the winters are mild, more and more sisters like your drawn here, wander along, recalling people on imaginary stoops.

    1. I see I did not proofread my comment. I’ll give myself a C- for that carelessness.
      …more and more sisters like yours drawn here…
      Now, I feel much better.

      1. i watched Barfly again recently. Holy Duff does that Mickey Rourke voice linger and that gait of his, SQUONK. And now I find myself with door locked, prancing around my apartment pretending to buy beer for all my imaginary friends in the post traumatic days of seeing Barfly. The word of mouth always seemed like a noble pursuit to me, still does, but here i am again with my own private beer. ughhhh! oh well.

  5. went to Cal (Berkeley, for the uninitiated) before the Gap went in on Telegraph Avenue, and if she wasn’t there, her cousins were. maybe a bit more unwashed, maybe a lot less holy, but that place a gravity that pulled in the seers from all corners ~

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