the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2007



Barry Wallenstein

Strange Encounters

"Welcome home, brother"
was the greeting—how bizarre
for the place was not my home;
I was visiting elsewhere,
nor was the speaking voice the owl
I was expecting to hear
or a prince or anyone I’ve ever known.

So I was confused
as when at ten years old
I’d stolen a coin from my father—
his "lucky coin"— and ever after,
I’d hear him mouthing the sounds
of the owl—hooo hooo.

Whose is this new voice,
disembodied and cold, calling me brother?

Sounds Above the Monastery

The cock’s crow—the sound
coming down the hill on a still morning—
does count in these affairs,
as does the donkey’s bray, the bleating sounds,
the buzzing sounds, blathering sounds—
a man passing deliberately, scraping against the pavement—
passing wind.

A young woman is singing alone
in the terraced garden sitting in the sunshine.
Listen too to the far-off bell—
faint behind the voice—
hanging from the strong neck of the ass.

The audible moths run up against the night window;
puck puck—they count too—always shedding their powder.

A Man in Trousers

Who is he
slowly walking into his reputation,
when then his pace quickens
and he stumbles gracefully
and rights himself—
a hunter
a warrior
some special person who’d give up
his blade and some large slice of time
to negotiate a peace between nations?

He plays a wicked game of chess.

His eyes are bloodshot
His mouth is grinning
His ears hear nothing
His eyes are bloodshot
as he says.

He reads the classics in the original—many of them.

Who was he
before the chute sailed him down
to safety so many years ago?
No one remembers.

Is he a believer or not?
Someone who cheats at cards
or not?
A kind bastard—as the expression goes,
or is it all misunderstanding
given the conditions sighted in the latest bulletins?

He’s a man with pockets,
sometimes full and flush,
sometimes as empty as drugged sleep.

Who is he?
Well, he’s something in trousers.


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