Volume 27, Number 4

Three Days of Peace

The University’s hosting a retreat,
“Three Days of Peace,” in a city
that hasn’t known peace in over three decades.

Inner peace, I can only assume, on a sanctum
of a campus, in a city cable news is again calling
“America’s Most Dangerous” as if the place

needed another “Kick Me” sign on its back.
Cars file in, park in student lots, and approved,
pre-registered suburbanites stroll in

under an archway of balloons that flap
like Tibetan peace flags, toward the academic
building where crackheads are occasionally

driven out like cockroaches, and ragtag strangers
sift through ashcans searching for salvageable
butts. But not today. Today, only the gurus wait.

Security’s been tightened. Nothing on anyone’s
face suggests this might be insane, or worse.
The conference comes and goes, as these things do,

and one day when I’m out walking past where
the University’s force field ends, I spot an old man
on the sidewalk, curled in a nest of cardboard, a giant,

filthy sparrow. While I watch, trash wafts his way,
settles on him, soft as snow. Among the cell phone ads,
menus for Chinese take-out, is the flier, “Three Days

of Peace,” still pristine beneath lamination, a missive
as hopeless as the leaflets dropped over Nagasaki
and Hiroshima, just before the bomb.

—Kate Delany