She is perfectly ordinary, a cashmere scarf snugly wrapped around her neck. She is a middle age that is crisp, appealing in New York. She is a brain surgeon or a designer of blowdryers. I know this because I am in her skin this morning riding the bus, happy to be not young, happy to be thrilled that it is cold and I have a warm hat on. Everyone is someone other than you think under her skin. The driver does not have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his metal lunchbox. He has caviar left over from New Year's and a love note from his mistress, whom he just left on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. When she steps off his bus to take over the wheel of the crosstown No. 8, she knows she is anything but ordinary. She climbs under the safety bar and straps the belt on over her seat. She lets the old lady who is rich but looks poor take her time getting on. She lets the mugger who looks like a parish priest help her. She waits as we sit, quiet in our private, gorgeous lives.
From Sleuth by Elaine Sexton. Copyright © 2003 by Elaine Sexton. Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press. All rights reserved.
His clothes were filled with tickets to past events
so he could hear the orchestra tuning up again
and the airplane landing near the diving cliffs
in Acapulco where the boys leapt into the known
unknown in Speedo suits. All travel was continuous.
Time was ceaseless in his pockets. The piano recital
played forever in its aftermath, its tides of notes
surging and retreating according to a lunar mood
for which the children had no table. The matinee
was screened over and over in the balcony of
his thought, specifically the part where the hero
realized he’d been pursuing her and was being
pursued in turn as they reached the precipice
of no regret. And then the fiery night called out
to them and said no ticket would be needed.
We walked on the bridge over the Chicago River
for what turned out to be the last time,
and I ate cotton candy, that sugary air,
that sweet blue light spun out of nothingness.
It was just a moment, really, nothing more,
but I remember marveling at the sturdy cables
of the bridge that held us up
and threading my fingers through the long
and slender fingers of my grandfather,
an old man from the Old World
who long ago disappeared into the nether regions.
And I remember that eight-year-old boy
who had tasted the sweetness of air,
which still clings to my mouth
and disappears when I breathe.
From The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) by Edward Hirsch. Copyright @2010 by Edward Hirsch. Used with permission of the author.
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Shoulders” from Red Suitcase. Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
The Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet, and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none.
The awful spirits of the deep
Hold their communion there;
And there are those for whom we weep,
The young, the bright, the fair.
Calmly the wearied seamen rest
Beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest,
For there is purity.
The earth has guilt, the earth has care,
Unquiet are its graves;
But peaceful sleep is ever there,
Beneath the dark blue waves.
This poem is in the public domain.