the arborist__

At the time it seemed
to see him kneel on the platform
and thumb through a book on trees
like he was in desperate need of
an identification.
He was an arborist.
I know this because I thought he’d write
a good poem, so I said,
“Who, looks up trees in the subway?”
Turns out he had been
to Green Wood Cemetery
with a funeral director –
his sister.
“She’s an embalmer too.”
He changed the subject.
Told me that he makes wood furniture
that they had visited the mausoleum
of Duncan Phyfe,
the 19th century cabinet maker,
who’d changed his name from Fife.
I’m seeing the cemetery as 8 year old me
driving down McDonald Avenue,
wondering who lived in those little houses,
wondering if one of them was Pyfe’s.
“Imagine, a cabinet maker rich enough to have a fancy mausoleum.”
He said mausoleum like petroleum,
or Mazola, then corrected himself awkwardly.

He said he couldn’t concentrate on a poem,
his girlfriend was arriving in two days.
From Norway. A trial arrangement.
Yikes, I thought. Witch trial.
He said he has so much too do.
He needed to make room,
empty a closet.
I thought, that is the beginning of the end.
She will want more
“She’s got serious jobs over there.”
Not easy.
“She’s a prostitute for the police department.”
Big job.
Then I reconsidered:
“Did you say prostitute?”
“No! Prosecutor.”
“And she sings in three bands.”
How is it going to work? I thought.
I wished him good luck
I thought to yell,
“Don’t you know,
New York swallows up Europeans”
Not my job.
It has been a month already
the trial must be well on its way.

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