Waiting for Papa


He watched with the gaze of a hawk
and listened with the sharpness of a hunter.
He watched and heard the careless cackle of old women
chin-wagging over the soap opera lives of other people—
the young and the worthless, the bold and the ugly.
Mamas fussing at their children. Babies crying.
Little boys sprinting down the sidewalk, where little girls jumped rope
and laughed and clapped their hands and chanted:
Cinderella dressed in yellow.
The rhythm of their flat-soled sneakers beating the sidewalk
with a drummer’s timing.
Cars whizzing by like there were no little boys sprinting and
little girls jumping rope -- their stereos thumping robustly
in the background with earth-shaking bass.
The light chirping of the birds that could barely be heard as they sang
their song underneath the hubbub of human and mechanical sounds.
The hurried click-clacking of some woman’s high heel shoes.
The cursing and swearing of a group of teenage boys walking by
with swagger and the sound of their spit smacking against the sidewalk.
The smell of their sweat riding on the afternoon air invaded his nose
accompanied by the sweet perfume of the woman hurriedly
click-clacking by accented by the smell of the pollution
emitted from the cars that whizzed by his building.
He was attuned to every tweet, honk, giggle, chirp,
snort, and syllable spoken every day, week after week,
but where was papa?

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