Monday, May 16, 2016

SISSON AVENUE EXIT [1992] * A POEM




[ several different directions

will confess a similar story

(if they’re honest) that is,

but even if they’re not, ]


the wash of frozen slush, the wipers, the snow,

but the golden brown kind


                        [ we’ve all got problems of our own ] we like to

think in the sunset, shrouded (because of the clouds)

and

under the clouds, shrouded (because of the snow)

and

let’s not even talk about the windshield

mingling with the rush hour street lights

turning the snow a golden brown

the Sisson Avenue Exit is unique

because it goes in so many different directions,

looks like an exit to another highway (but not really)

it’s just that West Boulevard terminates here,

maintaining the median between the roads for just a second

inherited from the highway (or so it seems)

but that’s another trick of Hartford:

the Boulevard was here first

(though it would sooner die than tell you)

so you jockey for position in the lanes to grab the interstate

(you’re not leaving Connecticut, but you can’t resist:

the highway alters time and space

you’ll get to your apartment

or your home or your hotel

earlier than you thought you would

and you might never see this place {in time} again) the Sisson Avenue Exit

that is

in the snow that falls like golden slush there is a hush outdoors,

locked away from the radio stations in the cars,

on the median I saw a hooded figure, standing in monastic silence,

holding a cardboard sign

army parka, thick half-gloved fingers, and nothing but the hood


[ Vietnam Vet Will Work For Food ]


I wondered without wondering who he was and what he needed

but the traffic light turned green and red and yellow

and who are we to question when it does

that fellow on the median, a parka, a hood, only a hood, no face,

but a column of solid steam billowing forth like an invisible command,

nothing but a column of frozen breath pouring

out of him, pouring out of him upwards, pouring upwards out of him  

frozen incense from the thurible of his lungs,


Will Work For Food, the parka, the hood, at the Sisson Avenue Exit, 

to the interstate I went

though I wasn’t leaving Connecticut, and I’m turning around him, 

marking ninety degrees  

seeing him through every lens and various windshields, 

windows, rear view mirrors,

(he doesn’t watch me watching him the hood remaining motionless) 

I try to catch a glimpse of our humanity 

the column still pouring forth, stationary,

disappearing in the solid dusk above us


ask any of them who were there that night and they’ll tell you:

The Man, The Median, The Sisson Avenue Exit in The Snow 


if they don’t or won’t they weren’t paying attention

or they’re lying or we all have troubles of our own (some will avow)

but it’s still there all these years later, the incense billowing upward

in a single frozen column from his life,

still there at the Sisson Avenue Exit,

no matter what we may have meant or said.

















Copyright Eric Seddon 2016