I do not remember the color of the walls,
or whether windows were squared or arched as light gained entry.
I cannot recall the height the ceilings reached,
but I remember feeling very, very small.
I see that place, always, on a grey day in winter,
when naked sentries, aging walnut trees, tower and spill,
the grounds haphazardly attired with twigs and ice and remnants of decay.
The architecture arrests,
reaches towards the skies, billows towards the city,
soiled white stucco, sandstone, a fortress,
here in this park of urban land:
a haven for the immigrants,
the wanderers, the homesick,
the ones who come and linger as though they arrive from some other time and world.
And for the likes of me,
the small and watchful child of such as these.
Though I tread lightly through these halls which echo
with a voice I cannot speak,
a tongue I do not know,
songs I may have heard, but with studied intent, have not been taught.
I am like a shadow.
Or a figment.
This place is like a dream sometimes.
When I stand aside the squares of parquet that form the dance floor,
smell the powder and the perfume and the pomade upon the heavy hair,
I hear the swish of the wide, swinging skirts, stiff silk swaying,
keeping time with the scratch of shirts, the slide of shoes,the faint tingle of jewels,
a underbeat to the third-rate band.
I see the faces, hot, red, still lined with worry,
though eyes are closed and lips control the smile;
Bodies, stiff and proper and respectful:
I see a swell of pride –
It courses through the sea of bodies, crammed together, so formal on that floor,
like a cold stiff wind, it invigorates, it braces.
I watch love, congealed and messy,
not a pink froth cotton confection tied with bows.
Not just age and generation,
not merely language and the style of speech,
more than jewels that sparkle,
or a song list canon
or deportment –
I stand apart, because I am
Not truly one of them at all.