I stand at University and 12th Street,
watch my friend walk toward me.
I know he sees me,
for he carries his cane with flair,
barely rests on the curved metal
as he swings his braced leg forward.
He stops at the corner, grins,
gives a small, stiff-legged bow.
We step off the curb, walk toward Union Square.
He is a mere half-step slower than before,
before the pain, before the brace.
A busy restaurant:
heat-steamed windows and won ton soup,
a small table
with room for his leg to rest safely.
flirts with the waitress,
asks for the pay phone.
I watch over my menu
as he pushes up from the wooden chair,
a graceful man made awkward
by straps, buckles and metal.
In an alcove, believing he’s out of sight,
he slumps, both hands on his cane.
His arms shake from the strain.
He leans a shoulder against the wall,
turns in profile to me.
Pain-etched lines appear as,
he makes his call.
He hangs up the phone,
takes a deep breath
and turns, smiling,
to walk back toward me.
Wendy Galgan is Assistant Professor of English at St.Francis College in Brooklyn. Her poetry has appeared in print journals such as California Quarterly and The AFCU Journal and on the website On Earth As It Is. Her poem “Burning Angels: March 25, 2011” is in the anthology Villanelles (edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali). She is editor of Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters and Director of SFC’s Women’s Poetry Initiative.