I thought of days with my successful father, tossing down excellent cheeses at a French seaside resort, knocking back the best champagne, as he picked up models to take back to his hotel. A million dollars today is pocket money, but I didn’t even have the rent. My dad could even buy a decent painting. I had spent all that was left of my inheritance, money that one of my family had worked hard in a hanger factory for in order to invest in IBM during the Great Depression. My last buttress against living under a bridge had been spent.  

It is a very long walk from Seattle-Tacoma airport to Seattle. The bugs in my head couldn’t get out. And then I realized it was just another passing truck, as I held my ears, and screamed.

Three hours later, I decided to get some sleep. I went up into a pocket of concrete, where there were about sixty pigeons. Some other men were already sleeping there. They were lying in old suits from another era, holding their ears, sleeping, like dolls thrown to one side. Beer bottles littered the area.  

The trucks overhead slamming along reminded me of the night my mother died in a car crash. I remember the car spinning on ice, and it going off an overpass, plunging into darkness, and trees, as my mother screamed, and my father remained silent. The car never exploded, as it does in most television programs. It just plummeted and stopped dead. I guess because I was a little boy, and flexible, I survived. My father had left me money but it was now gone, as was he, and with him all my comforts. I got to rather like insurance, and went into the business. The cars whizzing by my head reminded me of my poor mother, dead these forty years, probably no longer anything left but a skeleton. I would visit her with a final rose.

I tried to conjure my mother’s face. I tried to have her hold me, like a baby, but I had no memory of her warmth. I shivered.

My mother appeared in a ghostly glow.

“I am sorry, Bob.”

I nodded, and she sat down beside me, her warm figure holding me, supporting me, as I slept into the morning, waking to a bright blue day.  The bums had a campfire going and invited me to roast a rat with them. I got a stick and put the rat near the fire, and cooked it black, before downing it with some mustard packets which they had provided.

“Say, fella, haven’t seen you before. Did you come in on the Santa Fe?”  One old man asked.

“No, not exactly,” I said. “I came in on Air France. I forgot to bring any pocket change, and they wouldn’t let me on the bus.”

The bums laughed.

“You were probably flying first class?” They laughed aloud. I walked into the city over the next four hours, and arrived in Pioneer Square around noon. The pigeons scattered before me as I walked across the red brick park.  I needed a drink of water, so I went down into Elliott Bay Books, and got myself a small glass.  I was still wearing a suit, but didn’t look fresh.  Maybe I was a Bohemian poet.  

 

Kirby Olson

Kirby Olson

Kirby Olson studied poetry with Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso (among others) at Naropa University. His poems have appeared in First Things, Poetry East, Partisan Review, Chronicles, Cortland Review, and many other journals. Olson has also authored several books including criticism and fiction. He is a professor at SUNY-Delhi in the western Catskills.

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