I sat here at this table many years ago.
The door was on State then, not Chicago;
three shops sold coffee here since.
On Tuesday evenings, a homeless man muttered

to himself at the window, staring
into his coffee, while I ran through
course notes at the next table, coughing
on his stench, not knowing which night

might be my last, not even aware that last
would come. Papers to grade, translations
from the Greek, my first child stretching
my belly and sweater, pressing forward.

Now all I can do is wonder, search the room
for something constant to tie me back;
men muttering by the window. As I study
the seams along the floor, the heavy

outside air holds twenty years ago
and today in a single, paused sigh,
ponders the verses it spares,
deeding them to me to unravel, in time.