May 2003

The Neighbourhood is Changing

by Gianna Patriarca

the old men have nowhere to go
banished like corroded barges
in some abandoned port
they sit
cooled by the wind of streetcars
on the corner of Grace Street and College
the faded wooden benches
are the only welcoming seats
that accommodate their time
so much time now
since their backs gave out
and their legs have jelly in them


some see the world clearly
some through the milky veils
of cataracts
but the conversations are loud
and limpid
still the passion in their voices
in the stories they pitch to each other
in the need to be heard


the old men sit
and the old women walk
the length of Grace Street
to the great doors of St. Francis
each morning at eight
the doors open to prayers
to the lighting of candles
the necessary confessions
the blessing of the Eucharist
i make my way in the neighbourhood
school bag in hand
ready to meet the needs of my children
the old men tip their hats
and shout "buon giorno"
i have time for a smile
a few words about the weather
our impending arthritis
the change in the neighbourhood


and then i'm off to the sound of a bell
i will see them again
on my way home
full of the day's stress and obligations
they are still there
waiting for the sun to retire


sometimes i am aware there is one
old man less
one less story to toss
one less voice to greet the morning
one less hat tipped to my existence
oh yes, the neighbourhood is changing




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