Sara Blake
The Sax on Fifth
Poem

In Manhattan, rain on a Friday
is hardly different from
rain on a Tuesday.
(When I last saw you, the pavement
was slick and reflective then too.)
My morning march down Fifth Avenue
wields a collapsing umbrella,
a weak and flapping beacon
saluting the scaffolds,
and remarking without words
that I belong to this circuitry
as much as it belongs to me.

At the north corner of 17th Street
a human levee juts through
a current of blank faces
and I can hear him before I see.
A man plays a saxophone
to himself, to no one,
and to everyone, of course, too—
so clear to him today
what he was meant to do.
The rest of us—
can we be so sure?

His music’s question
stings like an old pain
you’d long ago learned to forget
to notice,
and knowing this,
he’s chosen such a gentle song,
and his choice of timing so kind—
a grey morning with a mist of rain
to soothe our aching bodies
like a salve.
Today his vocation is not
to serenade these living ghosts,
but interrupt.

The faces that frown,
stretch down to boots,
or latch to glowing screens
(today, at least) cannot be reached.
The deft vibrations from his sax
an abrasion to the bodies
with no soft place to land,
and I watch their sound ricochet off
the backs of armored coats and hats
as I feel my left lip curl
into something like a smile.

A few steps further,
and without understanding why
my anatomy feels loose
and ready to listen
and meet the eyes
of any strangers
also willing to meet mine.