Listen to Tom Sleigh reading "Crosswalk"
Nakedness of air, raiment of words.
Tarred cornices burnished by streetlight.
He, she, passing in the night; my own shadow
Refuting substance, me my own ghost—
The city around me shrinking, lost …
And then this woman—her small steps eroding
White lines from asphalt, a scratch faintly bleeding
On her forehead, her pleasure in dragging
On her cigarette; not phantom, not wife
Or adorer of Ammon, simply she
In her cotton dress, rosettes asserting
Her eye for color, form … Where they dump the city's
Garbage, in the Kills, they throw me in, not knowing
I am soul too, soul hovering in limbo:
I wait, I struggle: Where is the zone,
Imperishable, I must enter?
Moulage head of a god talking in a dream,
Ruler and judge weighing out my heart
On the balance pan, pointing to the staircase
I must climb—and then the old woman
Came into sight: Both of us at the crosswalk,
Traffic blurring by us, fuming
Flurry of ghosts. I want to speak to her,
Ask my way as she navigates through
Glare, eyes fixed on the gutter opposite:
Naked soul in space that opens into
Absence, soul that can speak to no one,
Nothing, soul that seeks to find "justified"
Glyphed beside its earthly name! …
Through her, the city shines immersed in light,
Trash, plane trees budding. I turn the corner
Into the innermost chamber where
Sculpted on its western wall is a door
We dead pass through to share offerings
Brought by the pious living—natron
And asphalt to preserve flesh, mask of linen
And stucco on the face, winding swaths of
Linen bandages—but I was poor, poor
In body and had to make shift in a simple grave,
Body enveloped by only a few rags
Encased in a rough wooden coffin …
—Old woman in the street, you walk through me,
I am ravished by you, your lavish
Gardenia musky smell, your white nurse's
Shoes, your burnt down to the butt cigarette.