Sunday morning in Central Park, chilly September:
I stood, hungry, packed shoulder to shoulder with strangers,
feeling like one of the huddled, shivering Antarctic penguins
I’d observed, over Burmese takeout, on a nature show.
Their life seemed futile, like mine: eat, shit, molt, mate.
The Dalai Lama — Emperor Penguin, if you will — a dot on the distant
stage, chuckled sporadically through the sputtering sound system.
I needed to pee, but Tibetan men blocked the Porta-Johns.
I felt shy at the thought of marching through them
(“Excuse me please”), all Caucasian, anxious and huffy.
I was certain that on Monday I would be fired, yet again.
I had no idea how to get my supervisor to like me.
I wanted a sesame bagel with cream cheese, a husband, a kitten,
hope that life would hold out more for me than,
oh goody, the monthly TransitCheks in my pay envelope,
the bonus that just covered credit-card bills from the previous year,
then a spot on an X-ray and a doctor’s voice on the phone and
then pluck, finally, and a brave front while I would grow sicker
and weaker until death and the floating and the bright light out
of which Grandma and Grandpa, who never liked me very much,
would take form — he in his flannel shirt and she in her housecoat —
and start to berate me, picking up right where they’d left off.