Meditations Between Emergencies

After Frank O’Hara

The night before they table the city budget
I walk to Sherbrook Pool after dinner and for the first time
this year the sun is still visible, or its corona
of greenish light grazing the pavement
and I am walking toward it with my old black
bathing suit and goggles stuffed in my old grey bag.
Inside, swimmers glisten with movement
I breast-stroke with tight mechanical fury. Heat
from my body dissipates in the slosh and froth
of eight swimmers lapping our lanes
in a recurrent struggle against inertia and gravity.

This morning the Frank O’Hara Twitter bot
tweeted the entirety of “Mayakovsky,” and for the first
March in five years, I realized I am no longer waiting
for the catastrophe of my personality to appear differently
to me. I am waiting to hear if this pool will have its budget
drained, whether the City will gut service operations,
transit, trees, libraries. This year there’s no surplus
to devote to other waiting. The new artificial lens in my sighted
eye drinks voraciously the fluorescent light reflecting up
from old blue paint. What revelation! Worry that resides beyond
the body, pulsing through government documents
into rooms of neighbours, through Twitter threads,
sparking flyers handed out in these streets:
sinister currents conducted from Main Street!

Outside I walk home through newly fallen snow
already half melted, steam rising from my wet hair
mixing with smoke from a cigarette held by a man
a few steps ahead. He pauses to flick away the glowing butt
before he enters the payday loan place on the corner,
his other hand nestled in his partner’s
as they laugh, not quite drowned out
by the post-rock band playing five doors down,
or the siren and lights eastbounding toward us
in the full dark, before the red truck turns
at Maryland, its emergency beyond our view.

On my corner I study the progress of desire paths
through the empty lot where they tore down
the shuttered vespa dealership full of asbestos
the summer surgeons performed delicate demolition
and reconstruction in the back of my eye.
A budget, we say in my organizing group,
is a vision for a city. It tells the story
of who we want to be and what we value. The moral,
what the representatives we vote for settle on.
One floor up, my neighbour’s lamps glow,
framing her plants in soft gold, then go out. An email buzzes
in my pocket. I hurry inside to my reading glasses,
to add my window’s light to our late winter street.