I'd Heard about the River of Time
Rodney Torreson

but never saw where it ran through
someone's life like it did Everett Clark's.
Old Everett, bagger of groceries, had time running
quickly through his hands, lanky, middle-aged man,
with a winsome puppy grin
that hardly could let go of a face
once he'd smiled at it, only his hands
looking down at the end of the conveyor,
picking through food stuff,
bagging by weight, shape, by whether canned
or in cartons, steamy warm plastic
or cold-cut cold, his hand summoning
a thing for softness, soft as his own heart,
to see if he should set it aloft
at the top of a sack,
the bread of life breathing in his sparkling eyes
and with whomever he talked,
though he didn't talk long,
for his river rolled fast, fast, ahead of the scan,
hurrying the cashier along.
Once, following his shift when Everett
needed a ride to his apartment,
I gave him one,
and he invited me down,
his stairs steep and with a washed-out look
and grimy water line,
as if he'd descended into a dark life
equal, I was sure, to several lifetimes
in one long river to his door,
and once inside—the likes I'd never known—
floor boards lay time-sanded,
with table, chairs and lampstands bleached white
and light-weight looking
as driftwood washed onto a shore,
the walls and door with that dried-out look
of having been water-logged
as if the river in a rush to leave him behind
left not a mountain to climb,
and just as I felt despair,
Everett must have seen it coming
for he laughed richly
to depths I hadn't known were there,
and he said he was blessed to have a place of his own,
a window by his bed
that looked out onto an alley,
and with that he tapped out in the glass
a code the chained dog
across the alley
chomped down on, once he'd politely
set down his bone.

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