The last bottle of Sweet Tokay 
was gone hours ago 
the morning was cold
this day would be no different 
than uncounted others

It was too early to start panhandling
Union Gospel Mission was open for breakfast 
Listening to prayers
a small price to pay 
for oatmeal and hot coffee

pushing his cardboard-box-lean-to 
to the side, got up 
ran his fingers through his hair 
brushed off his clothes
looked for a smoke

there weren’t any mirrors 
under the railroad trestle
hiding his duffle bag began walking up the bank 
when he got to the top 
he could see the Bridge.

memory took over 
he saw his parents’ house 
beyond the bridge
mom at the stove 
cooking breakfast,
scrambled eggs, bacon, toast

dad behind the morning paper
smoke curling up 
over the sports 
occasionally a hand would reach out 
for coffee or orange juice

next to the newspaper 
he saw an empty place 
his place, a memento mori
shaking off images turned
walked up the street towards the mission

Albert came up from the beach
24 razor clams in his bucket
rinsed off sand and salt
left his wet boots shovel outside
came into the kitchen

Anna woke up with the sun
already boiling coffee scrambling eggs
slicing bread for toast
butter, fresh blackberry jam, on the table

he put the clams in the sink
she pried open their shells
cut off their necks
egg-flour battered them
then in the pan for a few seconds

necks went in a bowl
near the sink,
when the tide turned
he would go back to the beach
with fishing gear and the necks

most of the time
he took me with him
I carried the bait bag,
across the dry sand
short legs struggling to keep up

I watched his magic
fashioning tiny knots
fixing leaders to swivels,
to weights, to the hook,
finally the reel line

then securing clam necks
to the hook for bait
casting to spaces between the waves
offering food to fish
disguising his deception

The world got smaller
when the hand-crab crawled
across the diner counter

into the can of sugar 
the waitress stopped then yelled 
time to leave, running outside

falling in a snowbank
believing the world was shrinking
after seeing the tiny beer-can next to his face

the crab began moving again
first slowly then faster
scurrying sideways across the snow

I hear the stories
contrived coincidences
lies, accusations

circus tents everywhere
scary clowns running, 
being chased, chasing

from giant mouths emitting 
confabulation filled balloons 
crowding out the real

Janus faced, turn over this paper
everything on this side is true
everything on this side is false

I know flashbacks 
from back in the day
invoices past due

across 40 years, spontaneous
hallucinations following me 
chasing waiting chasing