The x could have beenanything at all,
the sound of wind chimes,a gong, a choir, a cantor,
a mermaid, a schoolmarm,cathedral bells.
Instead—what a lark—it’s laughter.
The man who sitsin the park across the street
has habits of hilaritydisciplined as a cleric,
ha exhaled in eight pulses,stress on the third and fifth,
never the slightest fluxin rhythm, volume, or pitch.
His breath orders the worldinto countable sets,
number expressed as a verb.It calls her back. [End Page 652]
mary peelen received an MFA from San Francisco State University. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, New American Writing, Bennington Review, Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, and other journals. She lives in San Francisco.