By Lisa Simmons
When had you seen stillness of that measure before?
The shadow of the leaves, so distinct,
etched onto the wall by sun.
When had you seen skies so blue?
You had drawn them with finger paint in class
but not without a requisite cloud; cloud as clue
to what you were looking at, as blue so uninterrupted
might be confused with the sea.
I rode the elevators of a tower with my father once,
counting the seconds it took to reach his office,
swallowing hard all the way so my ears would not pop.
On the deck gazing at everything,
water, sun, clouds, and sky,
our apartment’s windows, the park, my school –
all laid out before us and small.
My feet and stomach tingled.
I pretended to be a leaf.
She was a cousin on my father’s side,
one of countless cousins I had not met.
On time for work at the Windows on the World for once,
her father told us ruefully, she was trying to turn over a new leaf.
My father ten years dead then, would have known her,
her smile and face, and not just
from the pictures in an album,
or from the paper, a flyer, TV.
Dust hovers down these sidewalks, shifts in the corners,
in the crevices, of which there are more now –
dust, the consistency of sugar and flour, pollen, sand.
Downtown rescuers search your face, waiting for the smile,
the only tender for their works.
We sat by my father’s bed in the intensive care unit
and held his hand. He could not speak.
My cousin called her mother that morning,
sobbing as there was thick black smoke.
All of us then, the hand clutched at the deathbed,
calling God’s name in unison, that oath, that prayer.
You’ll want some story – a small tale – ears ringing.
But this is a forgotten room without a door.
No. There is a door but it shuts on every sentence,
opens on a new room.
Will you recall?
The scrap of sky in the corner,
an inch you liked best,
you have fixed at the edge of your mind.
You let it go (gloves left on a subway seat),
and now it’s tough to judge when the puzzle is complete,
how to view that picture.
Orange peels, firecrackers, windmills, bamboo.
Pine, smoke, brine, lace.
Seed, flame, water, wind.
Pages in books, frozen notes, wallets in cabs –
half past, forlorn, alone.
Whisper of a pot, pressure steaming
or whistling from the side. Just before.
Leave the door open, the keys have walked.
Barefoot on asphalt, sand, grass, and snow.
I am the fox, you are the hunter. I am the deer, you are the bear.
Deer cross highways.
No hunters yet.
We wait for snow,
summer barely gone.
Mute animals stop then leave.
When will hibernation be set?
Their only shields–
a beauty to stun,
a stillness to startle,
speed to help hide.
Wild, yet meek. Raise mercy.
I am the deer, you are the wolf. You are the fox, I am the hunter.
How does the deer get lured?
By appetite, like the bear?
Reunions to come before hunger sated.
We are the hunter, the bear, the deer, the wolf, the fox.
Mournful patience and a lonesome departure.
The hunter sometimes is hunted.
People gathered as tightly as lemons, limes, and oranges
piled into supermarket pyramids.
This party could have altered
the currents of your life but you are absent.
An orange trips to the floor, rolls over to the bar, orders Dewars neat.
What is the word of the tall, tan man you did not meet who surveyed the edges
of the gathering, plumbed the depths the hostess would go
to ensure that talk of the guests
stepped lightly, kindly, measuredly,
over the heirloom rug that did not deaden the elephant’s heels?
You missed your former rival,
the long-forgotten quarrel,
the widening of years in your faces.
A potential rival pulled on an ear, fingered a nose, smoked a log,
curls of white curlicuing a halo
of spite and good nature alternately.
What did you do instead?
Flipped the channel, ate an unsatisfying meal,
sat in an emergency room with a friend who collided with a taxi.
Accidents are invitations to unmapped roads.
They vanish once you pass.
You sent no regrets.