unhoused and unhinged, they are rapt in
a perpetual motion of paraphernalia
trundling from Kendall to Central, Harvard to Porter.
One in a gentleman’s greatcoat—
worsted gabardine and fur collar—
holds a sidebar conference with herself, pushes her metal
shopping cart, argues with the invisible
censorious judge of Mass Ave.
Parallel to traffic, she retains a centrifugal
relationship to the lanes she occupies, strides
away from the main, parent axis of rotation,
abjures public transportation or charity and returns,
early evening, cold, coincident with those of us
not charged with a dilemma of streets.
She sleeps in undocumented doorways and on grates and
in neighborhood parks on benches and propped
on soiled cushions she pushes,
and even her sleep toboggans through the cantonments
of temporary habitation. I wake in a white Victorian.
She wheels her cart in time-lapse storefront glare.
Sponge of pocked foam bedding. Torn lining of a brown coat.
Thus I remember my sister, her unbuilt days
of compulsive walking before she decamped
to clinics and psych wards. Her walkabouts. Her unfettered speech.
Her terrorist phone calls and the tyranny
of her jurisdiction: thus, beleaguered,
she engineered a siege and won. Timber up a frame dwelling
I said. Explain yourself to yourself. In the end,
the cops broke down the door of an empty house to find her.