The windows of spring jangle open unexpectedly in weather-battered corners of this neighborhood. The overflowing stacks of firewood for winter stoves are nearly spent; in scattered corners, washbins mounded with ashes from warming bonfires are quiet for one more season.
Sleeping pallets unroll beneath budding trees, and the nights beckon: skies are open and clear.
With the untamed rawness of spaces, outside of cramped rooms, the softening nights mellow, and the seasons dangle with expectations, balancing between the coming of oppressive heat and the fleeing of sweeping winds and chill.
Soundings from river tugboats bellow out and around; the ceaseless currents become rhythms of the air, and the churning waters, blocks away and unseen, echo in muffled footsteps. But I'm dreaming.
A train whistle bleeds through and, moments later, carillons breathe into stilled airs.
Soaring to a second-story windowsill, a thin-bodied cricket is borne on quickening breezes and gusts of effort. A stunned butterfly sails to a second ledge, and the windows burst open: it is spring.
Fragile seedlings are shared with neighbors as snatches of unclaimed earth are carved and pampered into gardens.
With homegrown lettuce weeks away, the nuzzling whiskers of white rabbits twitch and twitch; wide eyes accept the open-palmed squeezes of children.
Great Danes strut; mice scatter.
Stubborn spirits stretch. A sweep clears the steps, and beside them, sidewalk chairs fill and refill with curious-eyed clusters of families. With the moods before them and of yesterday, the bundles of faces meld into one.
They watch, waiting for the confettis of parades, the rhythms within the mazes of their afternoons, the delicate portraits of movement.
On a broader doorstep, a timeworn dutiful waiting (club-released at last) begins. The surest boys bunch into squads: the bonds of these five, just barely four feet tall, are assured as they wait here; poles away, a more dignified group, and slightly taller, gathers.
The car pools come home slowly, and restlessly the smallest boys race between curbs and chain fences, never cutting through the waiting bands, but scattering on their own.
Two are set apart. Unnoticed, the older, bearing the pudge of home-cooked meals, gazes awkwardly at the others; his brother, more of a string, rustles beside him. The cars are slow, and nothing changes. At last, a single car smoothly rounds the corner.
String slides through the open windows. Pudge fumbles with the door handle, but it opens.
No one notices.
His passengers ready, with the engine purring, the driver pauses. Suddenly scrambling out, he unlatches the hood, reaching inside the engine.
The motor roars, swirling up and around.
The tight squad breaks conversation, watching. One by one, down the line, their mouths fall open and eyes widen. They look inside the car and back to the driver.
The engine roils again.
The two boys settle gracefully into their seats. Quickly back behind the wheel, the driver screeches down the center of the roadway, and away.
Moments later - two passengers long gone - a single cluster of shaken boys stare down a street. Still watching, and without words.
The windows burst open suddenly in this neighborhood: the doorsteps are swept off, and it is spring.