Randolph Walker

In the days before electric light,
the city night was filled with a thousand stars,
and love traveled through the streets
to reach the hearts of men and women.

Love seldom rested in shadows, and no one was immune.
Love was awake when the milkman hitched his horse,
when the apple lady tied her bonnet,
when the baker kneaded his dough.
Love filled the washerwoman's tub
and followed the children to school.

At lunchtime, Love met the clerk in the courthouse square,
love fed the pigeons, pushed the pram, swept the cobblestones,
joked with the lawyer and his friend the accountant.
Love was in the sun on the sandwich vendor's face,
and in the shadows under the elms.

When the church bell rang five o'clock,
Love was waiting for the banker, walking home through back streets.
Love was in the smells of dinner wafting through open windows,
in the honeysuckle climbing the fence,
in the summer dresses waving on the line.

After supper, love took the streetcar,
past the great equestrian statues all coppery and new,
to the park at the edge of the city.
Love swelled the blackberries,
love lay thick on grass still warm with the day's heat,
as sunlight drained into the earth.

Love called through the trees,
rippled the pond,
reflected the Milky Way,
played tag with shrieking children,
held lovers' hands,
until it was too dark to see.

On the way home, belles nodded on beaus' shoulders,
but love never rested.
As the night deepened,
love pooled in hollows,
glimmered like gaslight on damp shining pavement,
streamed like moonlight through open windows,
poured over windowsills, swirled around bedsteads,
entered the dreams of children.

Such was life in the city of statues,
when love traveled through the streets,
when city nights were dark,
in the days before electric light.