for Eleanor Wilner
For over a decade I would see her on the bus or in the vegetable shop near my apartment, always looking at everyone and everything, never on the phone or listening to music. One of those rare people who is truly present, I would see her see me and when I smiled she always returned the smile. We have observed people and things together for years, but never met, never talked, not once. We have never heard one another speak. In my journals I refer to her as my déjà vu friend because seeing her destabilizes my reality the way déjà vu will do. Then I closed down my apartment and left Philadelphia.
While house sitting for poet Eleanor Wilner after a year of being on the road I went to my old neighborhood in search of my déjà vu friend. I wish I could say there was a great search that lasted for days, but no, she was waiting for the number 21 bus and it was the first time I was getting on with her deliberately. I took notes for the poem. I didn’t want to break our pattern and introduce myself, so instead I occupied the space as a fellow observer of the world. I took more notes for the poem while studying the many hair wraps, shirt collars, and a myriad of expressions quite often in the same face. After a few blocks our eyes met as usual but she not only smiled she nodded. When I returned the nod my smile was one of my favorites because it was for my déjà vu friend. She got off the bus at 36th Street and I continued to write and observe to 45th Street.