by Stuart Dybek

It’s the metallic hour
When birds lose perfect pitch
On a porch, three stories up,
against a copper window
facing the El,
a woman in a satin slip,
and the geraniums she waters,
turn gold.
Beneath the street the blue clapper
of a switch swings in the tunnel.
Blocks away, a crescendo overtakes
its echo, and the reverberation
is passed between strangers.
Shadows quiver like sheet metal.
High heels pace off down a platform
like one hand on a piano.
There’s a note struck every evening–
every evening held longer–
a clang only because it’s surrounded by silence,
chimes of small change
from the newsstand, trousers
full of keys and dimes
flopped on a chair beside the bed,
the tink of bracelets
as her arm sweeps back her hair.

SOURCE: Poetry (December 1986)

PHOTO: “Porch at Sunset, Chicago, 2006” by Jim Luepke, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED