Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The life that never was

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 (Asbury Park)

We cast characters in our heads
as we walk this walk that Springsteen walked,
these institutions that linger at the edge of darkness,
the artist offering portraits for passers-by,
whose civil war era Union army hat
covers his eyes against the sinking sun,
his previous work stretched out
over two sea-side benches like a rogue’s gallery,
if not quite life-like then like life
in that we cannot duplicate ourselves
or those times we ache to repeat
regardless of how many times we stroll
these old boards and seek the images
we have only come to know in song,
Perhaps we can get help from the magician
Who sets up shop near Madam Marie’s,
Telling no fortune but apologizing
To the crowd when some of his tricks
Go wrong, his cards filled with holes
He can peer through at them,
Maybe the old men who gather in the old casino
Still have memories of that time
When a different life percolated here,
Getting caught on rides that have long been demolished.
Thinking they might never get off,
But now, in this lingering limbo, this twilight
Sea-side city of dreams, they really can’t,
Like the old carousel building or the sewerage plant
Serving as icons to a glorious past
Nobody thought were glory days
When they transpired,
Or the equally ancient old man 
With an equally ancient guitar
Strumming out songs that no one hears
And people stop to pay him out of sympathy
Or tribute to some god they knew
Once traveled in his company,
That he saw in the flesh and could testify to,
And who in strumming tuneless tunes,
Gives a different, less distinct soundtrack
To this life that never was.

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