The Local

“Poetry is local,” my friend from St. Paul
once told me. I was living
in Portland at the time, rising
at 5 a.m. for a coffee shop job.
I didn’t know if I knew any Multnomah people
but there were always so many strangers,
workers to share silence with
on the pre-dawn bus. The chill
in the air, February,
what frost smelled like
bending close to an iced windshield.
To be young and type lines
on a discarded typewriter in my brother’s
dim room was my late
afternoon occupation. I never
went to bed early enough
and abhorred toast,
all breakfast foods.
My boss made one strangely
benign innuendo. Power:
I knew I was sexier,
knew my allusions
to the previous night’s antics
kept the customers entertained.
People often asked me if I was
a native of that city.
I’ve always hated that expression.

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