Those early years in the city

like being on a movie set— cliche

of high rise apartments: cheap rates,
old, coin-operated laundry machines

in the basement; predominantly tenants
of color— students, interns, clerks,

transients, restaurant workers. Riding
up elevators like rising through

a fifteen layer cake warm with the scents
of curry and shoyu, fried onions, fish

sauce. Night and day laced with the alarm
of sirens from the Veterans’ Hospital

on the west side, the county hospital across
from the train station entrance— the same

one where they filmed a few scenes for
The Fugitive, Harrison Ford caught in a fugue

composed of Big Pharma and a one-armed man.
Everyone coming and going at all hours: nurses

with 16 hour shifts, sari-clad mothers
laden with grocery bags, salesmen stumbling

into the building near midnight. One
sweltering summer evening broken by sheets

of warm rain: and three brown-skinned exchange
students dare each other to go out on the bit

of grass near the entryway, to bathe their limbs
and upturned faces like they used to back in their

island home. The doorman on duty lights a lazy cigarette,
calls Hey! Do you want me to teach you some English?

They run back through the revolving door,
punch the elevator button and disappear.

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