Prayer in the Strip Mall, Bangor, Maine

The week after Thanksgiving and the stores are decked out
for holiday shopping including a TJ Maxx where what was
once too expensive loses its value and attracts us, there is a
store with a big yellow banner proclaiming GIANT BOOK SALE,
a seasonal operation of remaindered books, which doesn’t mean
that the books aren’t good, only that the great machinery
of merchandising didn’t engage its gears in quite the right way
and I buy two books of poetry and am leaving the store, the first snowstorm
of the winter on the way and as I get to the glass double doors
a bearded man with a cane is entering, he has been walking
with a woman who is continuing on to another store and he
has the look that could make him either eccentrically brilliant
or just plain simple and as I open the door and he opens the other side
he turns and says “I love you,” not to me but calling back to his
friend who is departing, only he’s said it looking at me, closest
to me, which is unintended love, random love, love that
should be spread throughout the world, shouted in our ears for free.

More by Stuart Kestenbaum

Holding the Light

for Kait Rhoads

Gather up whatever is 
glittering in the gutter,
whatever has tumbled 
in the waves or fallen 
in flames out of the sky,

for it’s not only our
hearts that are broken, 
but the heart
of the world as well.
Stitch it back together. 

Make a place where
the day speaks to the night
and the earth speaks to the sky.
Whether we created God
or God created us

it all comes down to this:
In our imperfect world
we are meant to repair
and stitch together 
what beauty there is, stitch it 

with compassion and wire. 
See how everything 
we have made gathers 
the light inside itself
and overflows? A blessing.

How to Start Over

We knew that things were deteriorating.

Gothic houses collapsing, sharks patrolling the lagoons, 

the born-again ministers warning of an immediate conflagration.

All the flights to paradise had been cancelled and even 

pinhole cameras weren’t letting light in.

It got to be so bad we didn’t want to listen to the news anymore,

where all we were doing was gawking at someone else’s trouble.

It wasn’t worth the effort. Where was the satisfaction we longed for?  

We couldn’t sleep so would spend all night watching the full moon’s

beams cement themselves to the silky water and travel for miles 

on the waves.  Someone was rowing along the shore, 

and in the silver light the evergreens were shaking slightly. 

At the edge of the forest the thistles

were attaching themselves to the fur of animals.  

What serendipity to hitch a ride to your future.