When You Pull The Bow And Lift The Lid
I am wandering the swarmed aisles, perusing the tempting stacks.
Idly seeking, I come upon a volume of poetry.
Nothing leaps under my gaze, bolts into the unknown,
a white dazzle smear of tail luring pursuit.
No daunting, dramatic, recurring temptation
so wondrous and unforeseeable.
No stranger, noticing puzzlement, lifts inky hand, reaches between the lines,
tugs my sleeve, points across the page and says, ‘It went that way.’
Shaking my head, I slide it back onto the shelf.
I now know less than I did.
Proportionally the world is pulling away.
With every second’s addition to my experience,
my susceptibility to the con of certainty lessens.
This not being the place, I sidle to the door, wind round my scarf
and take my chase onto the rapidly fading street.
As I thread the winter evening’s gaggle
I know this world to be overpopulated with game
I may well lack the forensics to detect.
Have some of these passersby had these qualities thrust
upon them free of charge, like handbills?
Could the gift be some magic formula hidden
in the generous offer to exchange new lamps for old?
Or is the accompanying nod of encouragement all we need?
There may be truth to those esteem puffs, and either hawker
or mark could be any of us, all having unique mysteries to share.
Or are some of these bestowed talismans merely shiny pebbles
that happen to speak French and were Voltaire’s best friend?
I examine the faces I pass.
Is there a secret code written on these features?
Each could be a benefactor, a recipient.
Do any of us really know what trade we seek in the market?
Search your pockets, turn them out.
Do you have what you need for what comes next?
And that is?
This time of year, the sun quickly gives up the effort
to hoist itself over the buildings and falls backward toward the horizon.
My fellow strangers clutch their collars tighter to their throats and hurry past.
The wind churns the snowdrifts and tosses rivulets of flecks
into the gelded light like tiny scraps of paper,
sodden and dissolving under foot.
With the dimming, will there be a cupped ember
and due clarifying dawn, truth again revealed with the rising?
Or will darkness overwhelm into the last long goodnight?
The storefront windows and streetlamps
throw a half hearted glow in my direction,
merely accentuating the depth and breadth
of the shadow within which I am silhouetted.
There is a hole in my confidence,
and all the momentum has leaked away
as season and day bleed out their mortality.
Which of you will pity the clown stranded motionless
amid the discarded handbills littering the frozen sidewalk,
and tug my sleeve, without need to notice anew
that doubt is on that to-do list we all carry in our pocket?