In the silk stocking district where I work,
a man has hoisted onto his shoulders
two large plastic sacks.
They are crammed with cans worth five cents each.
His hair flops over his eyes. We make no eye contact.
He mutters as he walks past a woman
carrying a plastic baggy turned inside out
for the droppings of the poodle trotting
ahead of her. All the streets have trees
up here. Planted around the trees are pansies,
and around the pansies a short fence.
Doormen wash down sidewalks every morning.
They pause when I walk past, but now
it is night and I am heading to
the bus then the subway to
Chinatown where an old woman has slung
eight square plastic jugs on a pole.
She has braced the rod across her back
and balanced it on her shoulders.
Men facing east kneel on prayer rugs
on the sidewalk in front of the old bank
now a Payless Shoe store.
There are shops with bootleg perfumes by Chanel,
Calvin Klein, Guerlain. There are plastics stores,
there are men selling sound systems,
and women selling handbags.
The four men who had been praying to Mecca
roll up their rugs and push their wares in suitcases
on wheels. I wonder what is inside.
The old woman rattles a coffee cup’s loose change
She looks down as I pass her.
I am almost home now.
photo of Canal Street
By Sergio Calleja