Fifth and Morrison, 1927
by Judy Clarence
on viewing a vintage Portland photograph

You’ve stopped here, on this busy
street, bent to help your small son
hold fast to his balloon. Ninety-
six years later, I share this moment.
I know your sturdy, shiny shoes
must hurt. Your dark coat weights heavy
as you bend, your hat clings
tightly to your bowed head. You
might try tying that balloon
to his wrist. That’s what we do
these days.

I want to tell you
through the decades, as I walk
past you, footsteps slow,
on this very street. I want to tell you:
Meier & Frank Department Store
is gone now—where we Portlanders
all shopped for bras and pumps
and belts and sheets. I want
to help you tie that string around
his thin wrist. I want to seep back
through the rough and smoky air
and join you for a coffee
maybe, and a five-cent lemon cake
for him, the child who smiles
as the string is tied. And when
the string frays, and the globe
floats upward, as all balloons most surely
do, the dissipated air will reach me
here, six-hundred miles and nearly
a century away, breathing it all in.


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