If I had stopped in a rush of deep love and
spent the money on that blouse as red
as the blush that rises after a full kiss on the mouth,

or if I had dropped the bills like seeds
into the dirty pocket of that drunk who
begged on the sidewalk, or if I had only snapped

my shoelace, so I’d had to leave
ten mortal minutes later, I might not have felt
the strap slip off, the purse go light and vanish.

When it was gone, I didn’t have a shilling for the bus,
no driver’s license, no passport,
nothing to hold me down to earth.

I felt bodiless and nameless in the clash
of evening traffic. Above me, some monumental clock
clanged five across the city and

I looked up into the face of time,
who someday will take my skin, my flesh, my bones
until I stand empty as pure hunger,

transparent as clean glass in sunlight—
while the bell pealed and pealed, a sound like joy
that in my life I never earned or paid for.