The Works of Jon Wesick
Three Dogs, a Feather, and the Homeless
Yellow, chocolate, and black Labrador Retrievers,
trendy as color-coordinated sweat suits,
escort three women on their morning walk.
A sulking homeless man skulks twenty paces behind.
His grimy baseball cap floats on an ocean of matted hair.
I cross the Coast Highway to catch up.
Tongues lolling, the dogs synchronize tails to their steps.
The party stops. I pat heads and thump backs.
The dogs lean against my knees, a good omen for the day.
Later, a red light stops me in front of the retirement home.
“I don’t care, mother fucker!” The bum approaches
yelling at phantoms only he sees. “Get out of my face!”
Eyes downcast like a Japanese swordsman I remove hands
from pockets to prepare for the worst and beat an SOS
on the crossing button. Slap! Slap! The bum swings
wild haymakers into his palms. My pulse accelerates.
Even imagined anger seduces.
The light changes. I ford a river of cars.
Wind suspends a feather in the crosswalk,
as if the Goddess of Mercy were dangling it
before my eyes. It floats to the pavement and tumbles
after the crazy man and the ghosts he battles.
Bells chime the noon melody from St. Mary’s Cathedral,
a European pattern of granite stamped in Sydney’s landscape.
Magpies, their white markings resembling clay painted
on Aboriginal bodies, whistle and howl, “We’ve been here since the Dreamtime,”
from gum trees’ sinuous branches.
I see few wild marsupials. Instead, winged creatures act as envoys
for this place’s gods. Inch-long bogong moths greet me at my hotel,
while birds ferry my credentials to Baiame,
birds with faces painted like Chinese opera characters,
red and blue parrots, cockatoos, pink and gray galahs,
and sacred ibises walking on stilts probing grass with curved beaks.
Beside a path lined with photos the size of Captain Cook’s sails
I wait for a feather authorizing safe passage to drift from the clouds.