Closed and Open

by gailrayaia, on Instagram

Image by Gail Ray

There is a tenderness in the morning,
when eyes grown used to dark open to light.
It is as if light bruises, gives warning,
confuses. It is as if light invites
the night, all things closed, all hearts in mourning
to open. Things that are dark may grow bright.
Things that are open, close. This is the night
full of gladness, dazzling, gentle with sight.

Light and Dark

by gailrayaia, on Instagram

Image by Gail Ray

When light enters the eye does it grow dark?
Do other waves weep as it slips in the grave?
Or do they shiver loose fragmented arcs
(wild rose petals clustered around a cave,
droplets of sound more liquid than the lark,
cascade unheard more sweetly than if saved)?
When light enters the eye does it transform,
tracing the shivering nerves until warm?

Black and White

by gailrayaia, on Instagram

Image by Gail Ray

Before the sorrow, before the thorn,
looking away into what lies inside
the senses, memories as yet unborn.
Do you remember? Reality sliced
into ribbons, tongues of flame. Roses worn
where wounds will root. Peering thru many-eyed,
caught in hatched pencil lines. Before the thorns,
before the sorrows, the closed mouth unshorn.

Memories of Music

Love the beginning of the word, she said.
And love the end of the word, she said, but
not as much.

Love the beginning of the phrase, she said,
and hold onto it until the end, then
let it go.

Love the beginning of the song, she said,
then back away, as if you changed your mind,
fickle, yes, like that.

Memories of a Hundred Dollar Bill

Not mine, but I can wish, eh? ;)

How peculiar, how odd are the things that
become bookends in time. Insubstantial
as a scent, color, flimsy as paper.

No cornerstone these, but yet they become
anchors of memory, bulwarks for the hard
decisions. Once I saw a grim plump man

drop a hundred dollar bill. When I tried
to give it back, he flinched, and rolled his eyes.
The third try, he took it, putting the bill

in his money clip, hitching up his pants
at the same time. Then he insisted on
buying me a fifty cent beer on tap

and sitting with me while I drank it all.
Every drop. No chitchat, no eye contact.
Twenty odd years later, walking the dog,

a young man strolled by the park, just about
the same age I’d been. He smiled. I waved back.
He started to walk towards me, his hand out,

some sort of paper in it. “No, thank you,”
I smiled. “No …” he began, then shook his head,
jogging towards me, hitching up his pants,

sliding his money clip in his pocket,
shoving a hundred dollar bill towards me.
Once, twice, … I take it as if by reflex,

asking him, “Why?” I really want to know.
He shrugs, dimples, and looks me in the eye.
“Just because,” he grins, waits expectantly.

I pause, then put my hands together, and bow.
“Thank you.” He bounces on his toes, happy.
I watch, baffled, as he strides down the street.

That was yesterday. Today, at the bank,
they gaped, “True story?!” “True story,” I said.
Three tests later, “Hunh, and the bill’s even real.”

NOTE: Yes, folk, I missed posting this on the right day. I was working on this poem, writing it for the 15th (ironically Tax Day), when my son became ill and I was unable to finish it and post it. So, this was written for the 15th, but posted on the 16th, and backdated. I cheated. I’ll try to write another poem so that NaPoWriMo doesn’t get off schedule. — pfa.

Memories of a Carnegie Library

I don’t really remember the outside
because I couldn’t wait to get inside.
I had to climb stairs to get there, so those
are crisp, but the bricks, bushes, pillars
are blurry & unfamiliar. Can’t say
if they were like other libraries.
I never looked up, but always forward.
Climbing the steps was like going to church.
The stairs outside: concrete, warm and gritty.
Open the first door, and it was dim and cool.
Dim, cool, and quiet as a sacred place.
Inside there were more stairs, and more before
large heavy doors in front of the long desk.
Children’s books to the right and back. Youth books
to the right, and right again. The rest were,
of course, for the grown ups, and not for us.
The stairs inside: marble, slippery, cool.
The outside edge of the inside stairs curled
around a column on each side, rounded
in a broad bottom step, where I’d hide
with ‘my’ books in the echoing chill, until
it was time to go home with my parents.
When I was old enough to walk there alone
I’d be at the library every day
there wasn’t school or church. That was summer.
Ten books a day. Ten books every day.
“You know,” the librarian chatted, “you don’t
need to bring them back the next day. You can
keep them long enough to read them.” I blinked.
“But,” I said, “I did. Read them.” She blinked. “Oh.”
Ten books a day. Ten books every day.
Until they ran out. That surprised them, too.
I don’t remember who took me by the hand
back to “Children’s,” trying to find something
I hadn’t read. I remember the books
on the low shelves: red and brown in worn cloth,
blue and green in crinkled plastic covers;
the picture books, the biographies, science,
history, fiction, … Large leathery chairs
in the corners of the room as we walked
around the entire wall. Short wooden stools,
a patch of carpet, large paned windows.
I looked up expectantly. “Are there more?”

Memories of Heat

Lungs, heavy with heat, labor.
The boundaries of the body
edge themselves with sweat, like lines
drawn on walls when no one looked,
salt graffiti spray-painted
at the hairline, around lips,
trickling below the belt, spine,
around wrists and cuffed ankles.

This is an aberration.
We were, we are, unprepared.
This intrusion of August
into April is not quite
comforting. Grass struggles thru
last year’s dead leaves, bulbs sprouting,
tulips not a handspan high
and spear-pointed with no blooms.

All things green try to catch up
with the heat, anxious as if
late for a midterm exam
taken the first week of class.
This is not a slow melting,
a bursting of what’s ready
and ripe. This is unsettling,
an unstable betrayal.