The World Is My Living Room 4-15-11 by Mark Nielsen
The world is my living room.
I stroll through it
as if I owned it.
Because I do.
I am at home in the wild, cobwebby corners of this planet,
As well as the domesticated, settled areas
with aluminum shelves full of goods,
plus the shabby flats with garage sale furniture
and, occasionally, the ballrooms and high rises
of those who need to celebrate
how they have risen above the others.
As I walk,
I greet the JAUNTY MAN in the parachute pants
with crucifixes on them.
Or are they stilettos?
(Not real ones, just printed white ones on black cotton.)
And what in the world should such an odd-looking man
have to grin so widely about?
But I am glad.
Because hardly anyone walks around here, which is sad,
But young Smiley here is obviously glad to do so.
All walkers should be glad like this, like we are.
Glad to be on their way somewhere else
–over there, thinking of their destination–
yet still focused with their eyes, and their heart,
on the spot
where their feet
are actually landing.
Walkers are in no hurry
precisely because they cannot afford to be.
I greet the adorable old Japanese lady with a yellow Shiba Inu bitch,
A beautiful dog who makes my runt of a Shiba male
look so scrawny and tentative by comparison.
“I got mine from Lamb’s Farm. She’s 4,” says the proud mama.
Meanwhile her husband keeps his distance
with their Shepherd/Chow mix,
(Is it named Adolph Tse Tong?)
a barking, curious, vaguely aggressive young male
who’s acting every bit the male
toward my own wise but neurotic 11-year-old catlike dog.
I find a Cobra walkie-talkie
I found him under the Com Ed high power lines.
Poor Cobra. He has been separated from his family,
and might never be useful again.
As a fellow orphan,
I resolve to try him out with my own walkie set,
Or maybe call in the Salvation Army for a rescue operation.
Later, I greet the sweet Italian checkout lady at the fruit market
Who I trade Italian phrases with,
(“Bongiorno, como esta?…”)
Though I finally broke down today
and admitted to her I don’t speak Italian —
Only Spanish with a few Italianized pronunciations thrown in.
I fake it with native Italian speakers because it’s fun,
And as an homage to my grandparents and ancestors.
I even sometimes make these journeys
Through my muddy, mile-wide living room
in my slippers –
these Minnetonka brand moccasins with plastic on the bottom
That I took as swag from a job I worked for a couple of years.
(They never gave me a raise… so fuck ‘em.)
I harvest hope
Wherever it is to be found.
I secretly pluck the cover of ESPN The Magazine
Off the rack at my Jiffy Lube store,
Because my man Derrick Rose is stylin’ there,
in a black hat – ready for clubbing, or church (who knows?).
And our Bulls start the playoffs tomorrow,
And I’m moving out of my house this month,
So I feel another collage project coming on
For which this photograph might make a good centerpiece.
As I walk
And drop off the dry cleaning,
everybody talks to me like they recognize me,
though nobody actually knows me.
A few have seen me before, but I don’t have a memorable face
Nor much bodily or social grace
To make me stick in one’s mind.
What I lack in flash
I make up for in substance and warmth –
All charm, smiles, and a readiness to read
Your face, your clothes, your choice of eyewear
And the metal or ink with which you adorn your body.
I take you as you are
And listen to your story,
Even hearing what you are not quite saying yet–
Not quite able to trust this poor wayfaring stranger
Whom you are not quite sure about yet —
whether he is
an angel, or a hobo?