I look for beauty,
and see ashen snow like barnacles
clinging to the bottoms of sad city buses,
wheels churning the liquid streets.
The poem has escaped me,
Wandered up into thinnest branches
Of trees that stand in barren splendor
Against white-worn sky.
It is a plump wintery bundle of a woman and I in the glass box first, toes tapping protest against numbness. Then suddenly the city night empties its pockets and there are coats and clouds of breath and shuffles – a jumble of frozen urbanites. We carefully un-huddle and find polite places to stare.
Words from a woman in eyeliner-to-toe black shatter silence: “Where the hell is the 19?” And we are now the cold-captive audience of a disorientated actress, who moved from Toronto but didn’t do so to be followed around by cops – she wasn’t a hooker – and cheated on by scumbags who didn’t answer her phone calls. The doings of said scumbags are elaborated upon incoherently but with great gusto. The audience avoids eye contact and sniffles. “But I won’t be here by the summer!” rings the triumphant conclusion. A sleepy-eyed man is roused to the defense of his city at this bold assertion, offering a meek “But it’s really quite nice in the summer”. A couple, he in a striped scarf and she with a backpack, cheery faces red-cold, have entered mid-scene. They are leaning together to make low comments, and she is tittering relentlessly. He, half-embarrassed, asks if the cold has made her hysterical. She wouldn’t be the first.
All hush, crane, and peer as the lights approach. The sharp-eyed striped-scarf man announces “The 160” in lamenting tones and the defender of cities groans weakly. I can’t help offering audible thanks to Heaven as I escape into the biting wind, fumbling for my bus pass.
I was older after hearing sirens screaming, louder, closer.
After breathing in a hospital’s death-hope-antiseptic breath
After meeting the rawness of desperate faith in tired eyes
After seeing tears and pain jumble with joy into normality
After feeling secure in peace as inexplicable as all else,
After watching her almost die, after watching her scarcely live,
After knowing she was a miracle breathing, moving, speaking –
After staying only eight years old by days, by weeks, by years,
I was older far – after all – by hopes, by prayers, by tears.
The heart hosts no untainted seasons
Snow drifts in the shadows of summers
Cherry blossoms blizzard over winters
Warmth-tangled chill, green-dripping grey,
The wondrous muddle of breathing days.
As the page turns it glows gold,
Gilded in its going with a glitter
That outshines pale sunlit day.
I scramble up the white sheet
To gaze like Lot’s wife on that
Glorious burning city, at its zenith
In the eye of she who leaves behind.
This page has left the consolation
Of its day of grandeur arising
When no longer bound between
Golden fire and gleaming cloud,
Allowed its due of glazing gold
When all its light is past.
The brightness of red hair, the brightness of a bubbling heart – she is the girl blowing dandelion dust and spinning dizzy circles in green grass, still living alive at twenty-one. Heart-shaped face, fair skin, eyes like sky reflected in sunlit puddles. She belongs to the sunshine and she spills it out recklessly in exuberant words, in rippling laughter. Beneath the yellow lies a golden heart. Beneath the high-floating happy notes hum deeper chords, clearly heard by one who leans in to listen.
The name of a heroine and a look to match – springing autumn hair restrained to braids, soulful eyes that snap with life beneath decisive brows, a vast raincoat of navy blue. Something like the sea or like a sailor, strong and real and distant. She knows storms, knows that adventure both glows and groans and still she steps forward, those golden ocean-wave eyes open wide. She feels the waves’ churning to the depths of her soul, the blessing and the burden of she who loves much.