Pom-pom man

(written in a pub on 5th St., Dayton)

Glimpses I caught between the swishing traffic
on that sidewalk in cold rain and colder wind
and a cast-off Cleveland Browns windbreaker: a man
tottering a mime of an off-center grandfather clock,
and, oh yes, in a dirty orange unrav’ling
woolen cap with flopping pom-pom.

Then he caught himself, a sudden vision
in that plate glass, and froze as one struck,
arms spread, splayed fingers for balance,
gaping at himself and his wobbling pom-pom.
And I too caught him, uncanny in the black
glass beyond a CLOSED sign, among
the white tablecloths.

And then, my god, he started to dance. Well…
Okay, more of a gaucherie than dancing.
Shuffling, spread-legged tottering (he’d a clubfoot, I noticed)
interspersed (and this is the point) with little
leaps; but now without progressing as
before (if progress is the right word
for going nowhere) along the wet sidewalk.
Minutes — or was it seconds? — he gaped and leapt
and danced while busy folk eddied round him.
Then a rain-beaded bus of limp-faced,
stippled tourists stopped right there,
and I lost him, the pom-pom man, who danced among
the tables of the Café Boulevard.

Well, it was for him, you see, a vision
(for me a far feebler thing, a philosophy)
grand as Milton, Dante, St. John the Divine,
oh, even St. Simeon in the Temple. The ecstasy
of an achieved leap ignores how high you rise
(pace Nijinsky, Nureyev, Barishnykov).
It’s how low you started.

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2009