The late Mr. Paddington, he never was on time.
His favorite fruit was cherry, and his favorite sport was crime,
His favorite game was soccer, and his favorite season fall,
He lay beneath the awning as his bony legs did sprawl.
That day, he saw a lizard slip into a crack, a slight
Sliver of volcanic rock; its tail whisked out of sight.
The space inside was hot and dark, the lizard stood stock still,
A spider moved on silent legs; the lizard felt a thrill.
Outside, the wind was blowing on a gnarly sycamore,
As down the block a little boy, he slammed the wooden door,
And walked by Mr. Paddington, a book beneath his arm.
A milk truck trundled past him, coming from the dairy farm.
And through the window of a house, he saw gesticulate
A sallow man who swiftly rocked above a china plate.
Around him curved a solid wave of comrades, men who sang
A song that stole into his ears, in which it softly rang.
Then gravel muttered in his soul, the blade it softly sang
The pull of money and of want. He heard its metal clang.
The padding Mr. Paddington behind him slowly stepped,
The sallow man behind the window danced with steps that crept.
The yellow flowers and the red upon the sober street,
The airplane flying high above, upon its way to Crete,
The coral on the ocean floor, the sea anemone,
The fish the color of the sun or green as Indian tea,
Pluto frozen on its round, dipping low and wide,
Sweeping into Neptune’s blue, upon its oval ride.
And Boston sighed, the sidewalk hard, the mayor lost and cold,
And Paddington, he swept along and contemplated gold,
As women--mothers, sisters too--wept of their intent
To keep their men—their husbands, sons--inside the horse-hair tent.
The river swept between the canyon’s rugged, sun-pink walls
And prayers swept like jagged scraps of half-scraped saber scrawls.
In the realm of lack, of want, there’s no one who is smart,
But people only follow down the valley of the heart.
The prayer of pneumatic drills, it breaks the old concrete
Until the workman’s hands that shake are filled with mystic heat.
I adore your floor
Said the woman with the mouse-shaped lips
Underneath the table, she was feeding her Rottweiller chips
It was almost more than I could bear
And I took in a sackful of coalblack air
That had rested amidst the vacuum of space
Where the miller and his barefoot daughter ran apace
And the water ran beneath the wooden bridge.
I reached into my pulsing fridge,
I removed from there twelve loaves and lox
And constructed upon a bleached, beached box
The remnants of a sandwich castle,
Through which a passel
Of tourists roamed,
Who had recently been combed
Having not long before been given their walking papers
And set to the streets after their morning vapors.
And the boats shot across the Thames and the buses
Swerved past museums full of blunderbusses
And I stroked your hair and I gasped for air
And I closed the car door on a burst of perfume
That seemed to spell the lure of the morning and doom
And I waited for hamsters as cute as could be
To reach for the icecubes to soften their tea.
Yaacov David Shulman