I wait on the stoop,
wait now, clearer, more focused
on the waiting. Fewer cars
pass by; fewer children cry
from tenement windows.
Pedestrians smile, but seldom
speak, and neighbors have learned
to stay inside. Only the neighborhood
dogs keep me company, panting,
circling, barking and smiling at one another.
An old setter lies in the sun on the warm
concrete at my feet.
I wait on the stoop, my left leg
nearly numb now with the pain
I have grown so accustomed to
that I no longer think of it as pain.
A sharp jab shoots down my sciatic
nerve: God calling my name out loud.
Once in a while, an old Black man
with disheveled hair and a stubble
of beard leans out from a third
story window, yells at me and the dogs.
I shake my head, or laugh, or shout
back. From a window on the first floor,
behind me, a dark-haired woman in a black slip,
with liquid black eyes, speaks Italian, laughs
a deep, throaty laugh. The building is filled
with such people. My tenants. My Circus
of the Heart. They, too, have waited in their time.
Now, they wait only for me.
I wait on the stoop in the cold;
I wait in the humid heat.
Through every season,
through every catastrophe,
through every silent winter, I wait.
Night and day I wait,
and the dogs wait with me.
As if they know who is coming,
as if they know why we are waiting,
why anyone waits,
why it’s even important to know
you are waiting, to know,
without distraction, that
we are always waiting.