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Lost on Colfax Avenue

By John Calderazzo


Walking to the Tattered Cover bookstore past the lacy battlements of Denver East High and Pete's Greek restaurant, I hear a faint scrabbling of plastic on concrete. Not far down an empty side street I see a shaggy figure in an army surplus jacket waving a blind man's stick and turning uncertainly in the corner made by a locked warehouse and gray retaining wall. He takes a half step this way, then that, a green beetle trapped in a shoebox, one antenna gone.

He stops, letting his cane rest on the cracked sidewalk. I almost call out, then remind myself to give him time to work back through the bent geometry of his memory. Once, in a mangrove swamp in Florida, I lost myself in the late afternoon, paddling in circles in a canoe, snail-encrusted roots curving everywhere out of water, living walls too high to see over and too delicate to climb, threatening to crumble like branch coral under my weight. Ten thousand mirror-image islands darkened as the sky turned orange, then faded while mosquitoes closed in.

I willed myself to stop paddling. Then gravity began to show me the way, a ghost current I calmed myself enough to feel, following my breath out of myself, letting the flow tug me, finally, into the Nirvana of open water, where the line between silver sea and silver sky had disappeared. Like easeful death, I thought, not a place, but a state of mind I might float into the way this blind man cornered by concrete and his daily life might soon arrive at a calm center, as he stands in a garden waiting for flowers to break open, their fragrance laying a path of stones in whatever direction he needs to go. But now he waves the cane and turns again, and though I haven't moved or made a sound, he stops and faces me. He crooks an arm, lifts it, waits.

 
 

John Calderazzo's stories, essays and poems have appeared in dozens of magazines and literary reviews, including Audubon, Bellevue Literary Review, Georgia Review, North American Review, Orion, The Runner, Witness, and elsewhere. His books include an over-the-shoulder nonfiction writing guide, Writing from Scratch: Freelancing; a children's science book, 101 Questions about Volcanoes; and Rising Fire: Volcanoes and Our Inner Lives, a personal travelogue which looks at ways in which volcanoes around the world have affected human culture. A former fulltime freelance writer and now an award-winning creative writing teacher at Colorado State University, he has had his work cited in both Best American Essays and Best American Stories. Hes presently working on a book of poems.

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photo by Dinty W. Moore