Something Useful from the Future
A black carriage rattles and squeaks
and clip-clops through the narrow streets,
sounds of laughter inside
and a glimpse of a white dress.
The sounds echo and die away
and what remains is a misty dark
drizzle and an orange glow
through the window curtains.
I like standing in a doorway
waiting for George Washington
to step outside of Christ Church
after an evening service.
Not yet the father of a country
or a painted profile leading
desperate men across a river in winter
or a green engraving on a piece of paper.
I would like to emerge from the shadows
and offer him something useful from the future
—dental floss. But what if that tipped
the fragile balance of history just enough?
The only one awake on earth,
floor waxed well beyond necessity
in little half-moon swirls of reflection.
So quiet and serene, an occasional snore,
black night beyond the large windows,
lights in the distance, bunks evenly spaced,
duffel bags hanging from bedposts,
each stenciled neatly with name and
serial number of the owner and
an identical lock at the top.
How could life achieve such simplicity?
On each bunk: two sheets, one pillow,
one olive drab blanket, one T-shirt,
one boxer shorts, one recruit.
Time creeping by from footstep to footstep
across the shiny floor, to the large window
to stare across the dark water of the estuary
at the lights of Oakland.