107th and Amsterdam


A phalanx of cabs surges uptown in tune
to the staggered lights and two young black
men spurt across the dark avenue (two a.m.)

ahead of them: We're here, motherfuckers,
don't mess up. Three of five cabs honk: We're here
too, older and clawing for a living, don't

fuck up. The cabs rush uptown and the lights
go green ahead like a good explanation.
Everyone knows this ballet. Nobody falls or brakes.

Tonight I talked for hours and never said
one thing so close to the truculent heart of speech
as those horn blasts, that dash across Amsterdam,

not to persuade nor to be understood but
a kind of signature, a scrawl on the air:
We're here, room for all of us if we be alert.


William Matthews, Selected Poems and Translations: 1969-1991, Mariner Books, 1992.