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Monday, November 11, 2013


by Dale Ritterbusch

Cloudy and a few drops of rain—
not unusual for November
in Philadelphia; sometimes
the row houses go on forever
in that hazy, particulate light, and no one
walking pays much attention, eyes focused
on the patterning ground.   So when
a young woman stops a couple
on the street and asks Where’s the veterans’
The man replies, Over there,
three blocks, turn right, the clinic
is right there, can’t miss it; you can
take your pet there any time
during the day or make an appointment.

The woman turns away, says thanks,
a look in her eyes of misunderstanding,
misdirection, maybe traffic noise,
street music, inattention carried
in the air like ash or smoke,
or maybe veterinary hospital
and veterans’ hospital sound so much alike
in the spin of the moment, the way
we want to hear, thinking the decent
thing about everyone, goodness
flowing like a rainbow of oil
in the rainy streets:  just so
careless distractions order the day
as everyone walks apart, rain
chilling even the best intentions,
collars turned up, shoulders hunched
with casual, unconsidered, indifference.

Dale Ritterbusch is the author of two collections of poetry, Lessons Learned (1995) and Far From the Temple of Heaven (2005).  He is a Professor of Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he teaches creative writing and literature.  Currently he is the Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of English & Fine Arts at the United States Air Force Academy.