Poetry by Will Fenton

On thanks

She thanked me, she thanked me, breathlessly,
and cast her arms around my torso,
and hugged me, her hot breath on my neck;

on the corner of Frederick Douglas and 125th
where the honey-glow of streetlamps
pooled in pockmarked streets and gilded McDonalds wrappers,
where the convent church bells rang madly,
at half-past Tuesday’s midnight,
where cars were islands in an ocean of limbs and flags,
and steam rose up from manholes
and blended into a mist of marijuana smoke and cigarette fumes–

I, an oxymoronic Jew in Harlem
with my small pin and wide eyes,
began to wonder
why she thanked me and
how I fit into this moment;

as the crowd grew louder and tighter
and cameras flashed
and car horns flared
and flags danced
and trash-lids clanked
and whistles squealed
and that old woman’s tear-touched cheeks lifted into a deep-creased smile–

that’s when this parade came upon us;

this string of trucks,
by means of some horrendously poor planning on part of the MTA,
five vehicles long, each towing the shell of a subway car;

the crowd crashed around the first truck and
the driver, seizing this moment, sounded his horn;

miraculously, it cascaded back,
one after another, each truck trumpeted
back, to the east, to the other side of the island;

the crowd alive in whitecaps,
it was Rosh Hashanah, the new year, the sounding of the Shofar,
hands reaching out to touch the subway car,
to touch the subway car as my parents touched the Torah in synagogue,
leaving hot, heavy fingerprints on its sides,
a vaporous claim to ownership;

I understand now that she thanked me for being there
for witnessing this improbable parade,
for welcoming this strange new year,
as the rain fell as confetti.

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