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Poetry #248
(published October 13, 2005)
Town of Characters
by Dr. Christopher Kelen
the whole place fits on the head of a pin

it's from memory
                streets narrow
in duty to the roaring smog

   with the same arc of phlegm
tangent of eye

      there's an old man
reading a newspaper
           not today's
maybe a hundred years old
      still news to him

it is a town of superstitions
      no knowing what's been missed

      an old woman
           is ironing creases
   in and out of cheongsam

voices scrawl through the grubby air
this is a hand written town
the old pencil is left between pages

there's that fellow who labours the street with his words
his circuit narrows to these same few turnings

   there's the discord of traffic stopping,
      for itself again
   couldn't call it a courtesy

the ancient lens burns all the same
the whole town fits on the head of a pin

      the town is a wheel
      in halting motion

the pavement of spat seeds
      dust not quite settled
the watchmaker's ash yet to drop from his filter

through all the town
a sulky swagger

come the old houses foreheads weed wreathed
church—any good god could rent

a screwed up face
eyes drift to work

slaps the paint over
any old passage of sky

      the town is
museum for the ancient trades
of hair removal, tooth extraction, operatic posture
cricket locked under wicker
. . . the barracking goes on for all this

      for the past is a nation in which we may pride
      . . . no nation here
but trust in the streets
some still struck with their calls
      'dumplings coming' or 'cardboard removed'

the whole town
      fits on the head of a pin
      a wheel and wound
      and wound to spin

      try your luck
and no time like the present
brings you against the what's-to-be

civic minded this perambulation
builds character
the town being merely
where feet have once fallen

it is a town of characters
the whole of it fits on the head of a pin

a dizzying instance
when it spins

and it spins and it spins
and it spins

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