Benson’s Market (Then and Now)

This morning, decided to explore some Baltimore-themed pieces…. Started with Charles (who I haven’t seen at President/Lombard in a looong time) and working my way down to Benson’s Market on Eastern….The city is constantly on my mind.

Benson’s Market (Then)

Sun glare off the wet pavement, I squint
and can see the wrinkled man,
worn white shoes, making his way
out the door of Benson’s Market on Eastern.
He has a brown bag and a cup of coffee
steaming, just like the Baltimore humidity.

He stands balancing his breakfast and
says words to a woman in a flowered housedress,
gray hair upswept high,
reminding me of a bird house that
used to sit empty in the very back of
our neighbor’s yard, except that one was green.

The light changes
and my tires greet the asphalt like
a quick handshake. The man is in my rearview,
walking up towards Patterson Park.
Another, much older, sits in an outdoor lounge chair,
thin legs crossed, watching him go.

Benson’s Market grows small;
diminishing in view the
blue and white checkered storefront and
a sign that says cordially,
bread eggs milk,
for your convenience, open 7 days.

Ahead of me the pigeons who sleep
soundly above the old Ukrainian Youth Center
have woken up
and flown.

Benson’s Market (Now)

Those must have been ghosts
I saw
When we last spoke.
Because the market blinds
Are torn
And cling to bits of dust and darkness
Like I sometimes do
To my tenuous memories.

No one has entered that door
With a ding
Of welcome in many years.

Who were those men that I saw, with
Their steaming cups of coffee
Their bread,
Their milk?
Who were those women
Talking of birds outside the blue-checkered front
That now
Seems so forlorn?

The streets aren’t quiet and peaceful.
The people sit
Empty waiting for the bus
By the Burger King.

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