Various and Sundry Poetry

journey

It was because of ice cream, the walk,
less reward than destination, a reason
to leave the house on a cool May night.
You thought a scoop
or two of the creamery’s latest attraction –
lavender vanilla, orange caramel, mango and mint -
was what you needed
to lure you out the door. This was a walk
you knew by instinct, a walk your feet
had memorized. There were all the familiar landmarks –
the café on 26th, the Laundromat off Clipper,
the Irish bar with the good lamb pie, the Buddhist house
perimetered by a delicate garden and wrought-iron
fencing. There were places on the sidewalk
someone had etched a love note, a line
of poetry, a chalk caricature that had long since
embedded its remnants in the concrete.
There was a bench installed, improbably,
on one of the steepest inclines, five blocks
before the park came into view. Then there was the park,
then the view, downtown rising like a bride.
And two blocks further:
ice cream.
There had been dozens of such walks.
It didn’t have to be summer.
It didn’t have to follow dinner.
It was simply the desire to leave
knowing something about
where you were headed.

And tonight, though everything had conspired
to pause you before the doors of the shop,
lick your lips, lock eyes to the sandwich board
with its dozen drippy offerings, then point,
like a child, through the freezer glass, nevertheless
you did not stop there. Your feet
had not had enough.

And so the scene, inevitably, multiplied.
A tennis court, flooded with light.
A restaurant, empty save its last waitress.
A book store crushed under its own inventory.
A film, having ended, returning its audience
to the street. The cookie shop running out of chocolate chip
and the man behind the counter looking helpless
as the doors kept swinging open.
The plant store display that defied gravity.
A window filled entirely with mirrors.
A man with John Lennon glasses
slurring out a song. Two hours and still,
your legs were not quite ready
to call it a night
until they were.

And when you returned home,
your back a little sore
from the journey, ready for a cup
of something warm, you didn’t
miss the ice cream, and you felt proud
for having doubled the distance
you'd intended, and when you took off your shoes
your feet had not hardened or blistered
but instead lay tender against the carpet,
and you realized that happiness
could be like this, too,
if you just let it take
the lead.