The Level Crossing


At the level crossing the parade
the crowd the traffic and the streetcar all
come together with the sun emerging
just as it should to celebrate the moment Ė
which is the moment when our expectations
are highest and the long midsummer day
has not yet grown beyond the keyed-up pleasure
in waiting Ė for the kids at least
                                                   But why
else did you come here then? You must have known
it was a level crossing where things jam up
where accidents happen where you canít just go
whenever you get the urge to leave youíre so
                Listen in the distance a band
is playing you almost canít hear it against
the traffic and the noise the kids are making
the sun is ricocheting off the hoods
of cars dogs are chasing each other through
the crowds young girls tattooed in sunglasses
and skimpy tops are strutting down the sidewalk
people are waving flags and pushing strollers
or eating pizza sipping beer
                                            I think
of all the things I could be doing itís not
as if Iím blessed with all this leisure time
Just then the veterans come by in jeeps
apparently the start of the parade
some people in the crowd are clapping but
we canít see any floats Ė and down the block
an old guy in the crowd falls to the ground
some people say he had a heart attack
or maybe he just fainted they make a kind
of circle there around him and we see
an ambulance that must have been here all
along move up to where he fell it takes
a long time like a movie in slow motion
but they finally get him loaded and
drive off
              After that the rest of the
parade is kind of anticlimactic the band
is out of key and lacks trombones a woman
near us says it was a heart attack
or so she heard she heard he didnít make it
it wasnít anyone we knew we donít
say anything to the kids theyíre eating ice cream
now still full of energy still eager
to join in anything
                              But we are tired
and start to round them up itís been a long
day and my temperís wearing thin Ė so maybe
not everyone would read the scene this way
I see some old guys standing by the curb
not all but unmistakably some Ė waiting
calm amid the celebration waiting
with patience and no protest simply waiting
to get out



 Jan Schreiber