The Keeper of Light

Michele Wolf
The little one listens but never reveals
What she knows. By day she controls the light
That filters across the roofs, through
Trees, on furrows of plaintive faces.
She wakes up alone and unlocks
Cabinets of light, allots the portions
Strictly, patiently hears requests
For additional rays. What a job.
She has to be careful. Not long ago,
In a moment of passion, she almost
Gave away the whole reserve. Phones
Incessantly ring. Amazing, someone
Thanks her for light. She has to hang up.
Her cheeks are ballooning, deflating,
As if she were some nervous fish.
She scoots in the broom closet, fits
On the funnel. Her face is beaming.
She targets the freshly erupting supply
Into a spare metal cashbox, hides it
Under newspapers in her desk.
No one has noticed. Flushed,
She sorts through the mail,
Coos a wilted sigh. So many tasks,
Yet the barest assistance. 
When she leaves, later, again,
She will dot the night, star by star.

More by Michele Wolf

Sky Lake Redux

Locked in the hothouse—my steamy, salt-air
Neighborhood crayoned with hibiscus, each blossom’s
Red stalk aiming its pollen-beaded headdress
Toward the sun—all of us knew which of our fellow
Alpha classmates had become pregnant, though no
Impromptu blooms would blaze to meet the light.
On my last Miami visit, my childhood
House was lost in a tangle of tropical greenery.
Stepping out of his pickup, the owner, whose
Fix-flip M.O. had not worked, admitted foreclosure.
Later, on Zillow, I wandered the shell of my vacant
House—the kitchen sleek with its brushed-steel fridge
And black-flecked granite, the pool pale sky-blue,
The patio stone recast a ruddy sunburn pink.

Photo of my youth: on fire from napalm, a naked
Vietnamese girl sprinting, shrieking, as she fled
Her countrymen’s blast. At home, two-inch palmetto bugs
Ate crayons stashed in a shoe box bumping colored paper
And pencils in a closet, burst into a psychedelic mess
Whenever I thwacked one with a shoe. One time a friend
Barreled out of her house in only a T-shirt. Bad mescaline.
For the girls in my circle, earning A after A was a given,
Our engines vrooming even in the hours allotted
To lazing at Haulover Beach, a half-dozen concert venues,
Discount Records, Greynolds Park. We had to get out.

One girl, ahead of us, Marxist romantic, alighted in
Berkeley, tutored prisoners with her boyfriend, founding
Soldier with the Symbionese Liberation Army. Sign-off
On its missives: “Death to the fascist insect that preys
Upon the life of the people.” She escaped, fading
Into the rain in England, soon after the first murder—
Oakland school superintendent—but before bank heists
And that machine-gun, stuff-into-the-trunk abduction
Of blindfolded heiress Patty Hearst, nineteen. Behind us,
Another girl, only three during the year of the napalm
Girl and whose yard slid down to the glinty lake,
Rose to the top of a corporation, asks parents to praise
Daughters for leadership skills, urges women to gather
In circles and build themselves a bigger box—lean in.

As kids—propped up on our elbows beside the murky
Edge of the lake, with our toes combing the chopped
Grass and the humidity pressed against us—we thought
We could pilot our afternoons as if they were float toys.
Steeped in the greenness, oversoaked by the gleamy
Heat of the sun, we monitored limb buds erupting
On tadpoles, clouds of them wriggling among the weeds.

The Great Tsunami

She recognizes its crest in the way he looks at her.
The wave is as vast as the roiling mass in the Japanese
Print they had paused in front of at the museum,
Capped with ringlets of foam, all surging sinew.
That little village along the shore would be
Totally lost. There is no escaping this.
The wave is flooding his heart, 
And he is sending the flood 
Her way. It rushes 
Over her.

Can you look at one face
For the whole of a life?

Does the moon peer down 
At the tides and hunger for home?

Pocono Lakeside

As I was guided by the director through the thick space
Of these rooms, worn sparrow brown, and strode
With the August sun on my shoulders across this particular
Acre of grass, nobody had told me this was the place
Where you had summered as a boy. I have weathered
My fourth decade, older now than you were 
When you died. I can barely remember you, yet I can see 
You not as my father but as my son. You are age nine.
The downpour divides into two massive stage curtains			
Parting. You bolt from the bunk, loudly racing 
With your chums down the slippery hill to the dock, 
Your cape of a towel flapping as if ready to lift you airborne. 

You are the smallest. Still, you always run in the front.
You do not know how beautiful you are, of course, squinting 
Against the sun, the flame that escapes behind the gray				
Vapor for hours, sometimes for days. You cannot see				
That from the beginning it has been eyeing you from afar,
That it has focused its golden spotlight just for you.