Two poems by Robert Strickland

The Literate City

“The city is all right. To live in one Is to be civilized, stay up and read Or sing and dance all night and see sunrise By waiting up instead of getting up.” - Robert Frost, inscription at the entrance to the Cobb Building, Seattle, WA

At 4th and University, a woman hunches, arms outstretched.

Eyeliner weighs on lids that open and close over too much blue shadow. She asks

everyone who notices for six bucks; tells the story of her husband clutching his chest,

how she must get to her sister’s house. Passing people push money into her hands,

knowing that she has been there for weeks, telling that same story to all who listen.

Here Frost is carved into the Cobb’s entrance. Locals smile when I stop to read. It is June, the sun melts into the hills behind the sky needle, ending a rare appearance in this rainswept home of Hendrix and Nirvana.

Bird’s solo drifts into the alley at Dimitriou’s. Men in slim suits hurry from office buildings

fixated on taut calves in heels that walk ahead on this beryl-blue evening.

West at any cross street the sidewalks tumble down for blocks to Puget Sound, where a ferry ramp teems with hundreds crowding the deck, trying to get home to Bainbridge Island.

1st Avenue is a river. People flow like schooling fish between Biscuit Bitch and Arundel’s Rare Books.

Some wait out the surge sipping wine in the sidewalk cafes.

I step through gates of the closest one to grab a bite and read the book I found earlier up on Cap Hill. Ambling to a table near the corner, the salty diesel fumes drift uphill from the Sound.

I order, then open the book. A man walks by, glances over and stops. “What are you reading?” he asks.

Closing the book I show him the cover. "Oh yes. Great book. Kinda sucks the air out of one’s dreams

but in a good way.” He smiles and walks on as my crab bisque arrives.