He learned early not to listen all toooften, and he chose carefully what to listen to ... and which birds to recognize... and which people were worth recognizing ... and he found himself oftenlistening only to birds,
And he learned to separate their songs ... and hewould stand half-standing, one arm dangling, one resting at hip and he'd listen... and the rest of the day the bird song would echo like symphony between hisears,
And the morning would pass and he would still stand, half-standing,listening.
The afternoon he'd rise and adjust his hat ... smooth blackwith curved rim, hanging just below his brow out of his eyes ... tint-glassabsent he would squint into the light ... and lick his lips against the overgrownbear that claws at his mouth and up toward his ears, begging to be shorn,
Andhe dips his neck to the water, cool but not too clear running over his lips ...and he licks again and smiles at the cold water and smiles at the wet hair abouthis lips and licks again,
And he rights himself and wanders.
Theanimals people objects emotions before his eyes are only frustrations,
Theunchained bicycle against the wall with the lock lying helpless,
The prettycelibate who leads the children to and from the fountain and back to the greenareas, and he watches the children pick cotton birthday candles and he watchesthem blow their wishes out and they drift up away into ozone, as the prettycelibate watches the children and hides her glance,
The football game on thequad as the limp knee pulses from disuse and lingering pain,
The arrogantclarity of the sky and its seeming lack of blemish, a periwinkle paper withoutany Liquid Paper clouds clustered clumsily about the clear bright message behindthe biplane,
The tight blackness of his pants in early September,
He cannothelp that all annoy him.
The bird songs annoy him ... such happinesscannot exist,
And so he stands half-standing, listening.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.